The Tompkins County League of Women Voters provides objective information to Tompkins County residents about the health care system and its significant reforms.

The League of Women Voters, at all levels, is committed to monitoring local, state and national health care legislation, laws and programs that promote access to basic levels of equitable and affordable health care for all. The Tompkins County League Healthcare Committee has, in particular, been tracking and will continue to track how the multi-year roll-outs of programs and initiatives of the Affordable Care Act affects Tompkins County residents.

The Healthcare Committee has been following the legislation, the law and the implementation of the New York State of Health Benefit Exchange (NYSOH), established consistent with the Affordable Care Act.

The first New York State of Health Initial Enrollment Period started on Oct. 1, 2013. And Tompkins County residents had many questions! What is the health insurance marketplace? How do i access the marketplace in Tompkins County? How much will it cost? If I have Medicare, do I have to do anything?

The Healthcare Committee worked closely with various community organizations and individuals, including the Tompkins County, NYSOH-certified Navigators to address these questions and let people know where they could seek more individualized counseling in the county. Three thousand five hundred eighty-two Tompkins County residents were enrolled in NYSOH plans during the initial enrollment period, Oct. 1, 2013 to April 15, 2014.

The League advocates for multiple legislative initiatives to improve health care in New York state. In addition to the Affordable Care Act, the League supports the New York Health Act and its single-payer concept, which includes equitable access and cost containment, as the best approach to advancing and expanding health care.

The NYS League Memorandum of Support of Single Payer succinctly states: “Under the New York Health plan, the current system of health care coverage would be replaced by a comprehensive, single-payer health coverage program financed through existing federal, state and local sources, as well as through new, progressive assessments on payroll and non-payroll income. Our current system of inefficient and inadequate health care coverage plans would be replaced with a more equitable program that would save lives and would target New York’s scarce health care dollars towards providing universal access to high-quality, cost-effective care for all residents, regardless of their age, income, health or employment status. The League of Women Voters of New York State has long supported policies that promote access to a basic level of quality care at an affordable cost for all, while ensuring the efficient and cost-effective delivery of care.”

The League routinely contacts Tompkins County and New York state legislators to discuss existing and proposed health care legislation, the status of such legislation and what impact the legislation will have on Tompkins County residents. The League is closely following the legislative progress of the New York Health Act, A.5062(Gottfried)/S.3525(Perkins) in Albany.

The League is nonpartisan. We promote political responsibility through informed and active participation in government. The Healthcare Committee needs volunteers! To learn more about our activities, please visit lwvtompkins.org.

Sarah Jane Blake is Health Care Committee chair of the League of Women Voters of New York State.