Advocates push for state-level single-payer health care system

May 26, 2016

Advocates for a state-level single-payer health care system are ratcheting up their pleas for legislative action to create “Medicare for all” before the session expires June 16.

But while the Assembly’s passage last year of a bill from Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, for the first time in more than 20 years marked progress, passage remains unlikely in the Republican-controlled state Senate, where it historically hasn’t come up for discussion.

“Every New Yorker would be entitled to full, complete health coverage — better health coverage than you or I or anybody in New York has today,” Gottfried, the Assembly Health Committee chairman, said at a rally Tuesday. “You would have that as a right just by being a New Yorker.”

In recent years as critics have shellacked the Affordable Care Act’s stumbles, advocates of a single-payer system also have picked up on the Obamacare fervor to point out that their preferred system would be better.

“When everybody’s not in, somebody’s out,” state Nurses Association 1st Vice President Marva Wade said. “There are millions of people who didn’t get healthcare at all. They still don’t have it now.”

Single-payer healthcare has been a difficult fish for lawmakers nationwide, let alone in New York over the past 20-plus years, to snag. Take Vermont as an example: While that state seemed destined to implement its own program, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced in 2014 it was DOA because of potential adverse economic impacts.

Tuesday’s call for a single-payer system wasn’t without its detractors.

“Single-payer advocates are correct in pointing to New York’s high Medicaid and workers compensation costs, but those problems should be addressed by improving each program specifically, not by throwing our hands up and shifting the costs over to a massive new bureaucracy,” said Ken Girardin, policy analyst for the fiscally conservative Empire Center.

The New York Health Plan Association chastised single-payer supporters for having a “utopian view of a universal health care system” in a memo in opposition to the legislation.

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