New York debates universal ‘single-payer’ health coverage (Albany Hearing)
January 15, 2015
Please see 4 minute video at above link of State Senator Bill Perkins, a Democrat representing Harlem and other parts of New York City, addresses several labor unions during a rally in support of New York’s single-payer health coverage model, just before a public hearing on the proposed legislation at the Legislative Office Building in Albany.
Jan 13, 2015, 3:07pm EST
Reporter-Albany Business Review
Paul Macielak, president and CEO of the New York Health Plan Association, knew he would play the villain this morning as lawmakers discussed enacting a single-payer health coverage model.
Macielak, whose trade group represents health insurers, mentioned his role as the opposition during a public hearing on the legislation, which is seeking to become the first state-government-run universal health care model in the nation.
Besides Macielak, a majority of the 44 speakers came from labor unions representing health care workers, educators and various other advocacy groups.
Prior to the hearing, many of the same speakers had gathered for a rally to support the legislation, with chants like “your health is your wealth” echoing through the Legislative Office Building.
Still, Macielak told the crowd they should look at Vermont to see the fiscal pitfalls of universal health care. The governor there recently abandoned his version of single payer, saying raising taxes enough to pay for the plan would be too costly for business and employees to bear.
“This needs to be grounded in some reality,” Macielak told the New York lawmakers pursuing the legislation.
Among them was Richard Gottfried, a Democrat and state assemblyman representing Manhattan.
Gottfried, who is chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Health, has been proposing that New York enact single-payer health coverage legislation since the 1990s.
He countered Macielak’s argument by saying New York’s version of single payer is more viable than Vermont’s, although he said figures for proposed payroll and income tax increases in New York wouldn’t be available until later this year.
One of the key issues includes whether New York could secure federal waivers allowing the state to use billions of Medicare and Medicaid dollars to pay for universal health care for more than 19 million New Yorkers.
Vermont’s single-payer plan couldn’t get those waivers for Medicaid and Medicare, the federal health care programs for low-income and elderly, respectively.
Assemblyman Phil Steck, a Democrat representing parts of Albany and Schenectady counties, said business owners should be calling for single payer. He said the legislation would rein in rising health insurance cost stifling business in New York, along with other benefits.
Macielak primarily addressed Steck’s stance on cost, along with other related arguments, by saying New York would fall behind other states if it enacted single payer and had to shoulder added cost and other burdens as it made the transition.
The debate is more realistic at the federal government level, Macielak said. Steck countered that many European countries the size of New York already have single-payer health coverage, though he said the point about overcoming federal hurdles is valid.
Check out the video above to hear supporters of the single payer discuss how and why they believe it would save billions of dollars and expand access to health care. The legislation is heading toward further debate in the New York state Assembly, although it is expected to lack enough support to pass the Republican-controlled state Senate.
Here is an Albany Business Review story about more details involved in the debate over single-payer models, including