An annual pitch for a single-payer system (Albany Hearing)

January 16, 2015

An annual pitch for a single-payer system

“Medicare for all” has little immediate chance of approval in state

timesunion.com       By Casey Seiler
Published 8:55 pm, Tuesday, January 13, 2015
  • Cessie Alfonso, member of the Citizens Action Board of Directors, speaks during a public hearing on a state bill to create single payer health coverage on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union) Photo: Cindy Schultz / 00030186A
    Cessie Alfonso, member of the Citizens Action Board of Directors, speaks during a public hearing on a state bill to create single payer health coverage on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)

  • Student Luke Buchanan speaks during a public hearing on a state bill to create single payer health coverage on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)    Kathy Aberman, right, shares her story during a public hearing on a state bill to create single payer health coverage on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y. Joining her are Luke Buchanan, left, and Star Hesse. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)    Matt Funicello, owner of the Rock Hill Bakehouse and Green Party Congressional candidate, speaks during a public hearing on a state bill to create single payer health coverage on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)    Alan Pfeffer, advocacy chair of the Albany affiliate of the Huntington's Disease Society of America, shares his daughter's story during a public hearing on a state bill to create single payer health coverage on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)    Assemblymen Richard Gottfried, left, and Andrew Raia listen to testimonies during a public hearing on a state bill to create single payer health coverage on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)

More than 40 witnesses offered testimony Tuesday in a marathon Assembly hearing on a bill that has no near-term chance of becoming law.

In what has become an annual exercise, legislation to create a single-payer health care system in New York state drew ardent support from labor leaders, policy wonks and regular folk who told often grueling stories of their experiences navigating the current for-profit system.

The New York Health Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and his fellow Democrat Sen. Bill Perkins, would establish a system that’s been shorthanded as “Medicare for all,” which advocates argue would be far less costly and easier to administer. The bill, first introduced more than a decade ago, failed to come to the floor of the Democratic-controlled Assembly in its most recent incarnation, and stands no chance of being passed by the Republican-majority state Senate.

Paul Macielak, president and CEO of the stateHealth Plan Association, was one of a small number of opponents of the bill who appeared at the hearing.

Macielak said that unlike the federal Affordable Care Act, which works within the current for-profit system while expanding the pool of those covered, the single-payer plan would dissolve the private health care industry, a structure with a proven record of providing care.

“On the other hand, we have your promise things will be better under a single-payer system,” he said. “However, we have nothing to measure it against.”

Assemblyman Phil Steck noted that most industrialized nations provided some degree of socialized health care, though the panel noted the challenge of setting up a plan at the individual state level. Vermont recently backed away from implementing a single-payer plan due to the high cost.

Macielak said he had heard concerns from seniors worried that the bill would upend coverage for those who employ the Medicare Advantage managed-care plan.

“Are these the seniors we always hear about who say, ‘Keep your dirty government hands off my Medicare?'” Gottfried asked, drawing laughs.

Long Island Republican Assemblyman Andrew Raia served as the legislative panel’s skeptic. At one point, he asked Mark Josefski, president of the state Academy of Family Physicians, whether New York would face the rationing of health care under a single-payer system.

Josefski said that American health care is already rationed according to various factors — chief among them a patient’s ability to pay. “We want to rationalize the rationing,” Josefski said.

Tuesday’s session was the final stop in a statewide series of hearings on the bill.

cseiler@timesunion.com • 518-454-5619 • @CaseySeiler

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