Advocates push for state-run universal health care… (Albany Hearing)

January 16, 2015

Updated: Tuesday, January 13 2015, 09:51 PM EST ALBANY —

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Doctors, nurses and patients are speaking out against the state’s current healthcare system saying it is too expensive and too exclusive.

Healthcare union members staged a rally at the Legislative Office Building Tuesday asking for support of the New York State Health Act. This legislation would create a state-run universal healthcare program. It goes a step further than the Affordable Care Act because it essentially eliminates the private health insurance system and all the premiums, deductibles and co-pays that come with it.

Advocates say by cutting health insurance company administrative costs, health care would be more accessible to everyone.

“Health insurance companies in New York State would find something else to do,” Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said. The Democrat from Manhattan is the chair of the Health on Committee and the sponsor of the legislation.

If the proposed law is passed, taxpayers would ultimately foot the bill but advocates say people would actually save money because there would no longer be overhead or administrative costs.

“It would be funded as it should be: By broad-based assessments that are based on ability to pay,” Gottfried said.  At the hearing, Republican Assemblyman Andrew Raia argued that those “assessments” could translate into businesses shouldering a lot of the cost.

But advocates say the system would also give everyone access to the doctor and medicine they need.

“I suffered a falling injury. A back injury,” Darrett Roberts, who supports the New York Health Act said.

Roberts says he worked for more than 30 years and hardly ever took a sick day to keep his insurance costs down. He says he’s managing his medical bills but he was at the Health Committee hearing on behalf of others who cannot.

“This will even out the playing field because everybody needs healthcare,” Roberts said.

Including Bob Bradley’s 29-year-old son, who has type-one diabetes as well as co-pays and premiums through the roof.

“It’s gotten to the point where he does not go to the doctor as often as you should for the proper care for his disease and he’s been affected by that physically,” Bradley said.

Gottfried admitted he’s concerned about the bill winning support in the Republican-controlled Senate but he might have trouble in the Democratically-controlled Assembly as well, especially with a dissenting voice like Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin’s.

“What works is the free market in insurance and that’s sadly what we’re not heading toward. But that’s what we should be doing,” McLaughlin said. “I would say, you know, respectfully suggest to anybody that’s supporting single-payer [to] talk to Vermont and see how well it’s working out over there.”

In 2011 Vermont passed legislation intending to develop a single-payer system but the governor recently scrapped it saying the state could not afford it.

Advocates in New York say this is different.

“New York is a much bigger economy. I think our bill is a lot better than what they were looking to do,” Gottfried said.

Gottfried says it could be weeks before the bill is ready to be officially introduced in the Assembly but he’s hoping the six public hearings he has held across the state will help drum up the needed support.

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