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Despite changes brought by the Affordable Care Act, advocates for a universal single-payer system say the current healthcare model is deeply flawed because it leaves consumers’ access to care at the mercy of for-profit insurance companies.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, is sponsoring legislation that would create a universal single-payer healthcare system in New York state. At a public hearing in Rochester Monday to discuss hisNew York Health act, Gottfried said the plan would provide comprehensive health coverage for all New Yorkers and would be publicly funded.

“New York can have a universal health coverage system that covers all of us, without premiums and deductibles and co-pays and restricted networks,” Gottfried said. “It could save New Yorkers over $20 billion a year by not having to pay for insurance company administrative personnel and profit.”

“Additionally, healthcare providers would not have to hire an army of administrative personnel to fight with insurance companies to get paid,” Gottfried said. “All of that is built into our health care costs now, and it would not be a cost hanging around our necks under New York Health.”

Deborah Fasser, spokeswoman for the New York State Conference of BlueCross and BlueShield Plans, disagrees with Gottfried’s assessment and his proposals for reform.

“A ‘single payer health care system’ means a health insurance system run by the government, inevitably leading to higher taxes, price controls, limited choice among plans and providers, health care rationing, and a loss of jobs in the health insurance industry,” Fasser said. “It is a relic from years ago debate.”

Fasser says that the Affordable Care Act attempts to balance a private sector solution with appropriate government oversight. “While not perfect and in need of revisions on a number of fronts, it is grounded in the benefits of private coverage,” she said. “Instead of destroying the current system, we believe a more appropriate use of resources should be placed on improving it.”

Colin O’Malley, organizing director of Metro Justice, says that while rising costs are an important issue affecting healthcare, we’re also facing a moral crisis.

“Thousands of people die each year due to lack of access to proper medical care,” O’Malley said, “while profits of billions are made by insurance companies.”

“We have a solution which has been demonstrated by every industrialized nation in this world,” O’Malley said, referring to the universal single-payer model. “It’s a solution which provides real care for all people and actually reduces costs.”

The Rev. Dr. Richard Gilbert, president of Interfaith Impact of New York State, says this legislation is about more than cutting costs.

“Healthcare is a human right,” Gilbert said, “grounded in the moral fiber of major world religious traditions. It’s not a commodity subject to political whims, economic theories, or social fashion, but grounded in the moral foundation of our very humanity.”

Gilbert was one of several speakers expressing support for the proposed legislation. “It’s passage is a moral imperative of our time,” he said.

Assemblyman Gottfried is hosting a series of six public hearings across the state to discuss the proposed New York Health Act and seeking input on the shortcomings of the current healthcare system. The first hearing was held in Syracuselast week, and the next session will be in Buffalo on December 10.

SLAHMAN@Gannett.com

Twitter: @SeanLahman