Buffalo Council Passes Resolution Urging Passage of New York Health Act
February 24, 2017
BUFFALO, NY – On Tuesday, February 21 2017, the Buffalo Common Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the New York Health Act (A.4738 / S.4371) — legislation that will guarantee health care to all New Yorkers by creating a universal, publicly-financed healthcare system. The resolution was introduced by David Rivera and Rasheed Wyatt in a February 14 meeting of the Community Development Committee where Council members heard testimony from health care advocates with the Campaign for New York Health, a broad coalition of labor, nurses, physician groups, community healthcare clinics, organized labor and grassroots community activists.
The New York Health Act passed by a large majority in the Assembly in 2015 and 2016. It has been reintroduced in the Assembly and Senate for the 2017 legislative session by Assembly member Dick Gottfried and Senator Bill Perkins, respectively. The resolution reflects the growing public support for this solution, especially as Congressional proposals threaten current health coverage for millions of New Yorkers.
Niagara District Council Member David A. Rivera stated, “I want to thank the members of the community, from labor, nurses, and community organizations who brought this to the Common Council’s attention. It is important we continue on in establishing health care as a right in this country. Our basic human needs should not be left up to the market to decide the price and accessibility of goods and services. Health, housing, food, and other needs need to be equal and equitable for all. If one level of government cannot provide for our needs, other levels of government will need to step up to deliver. That’s why I am supporting the NY Health Act and look to our state representatives to make this a priority for 2017 Legislative Session.”
“While Congressional Republicans consider repealing the Affordable Care Act, the New York State legislature could take action to guarantee health care to all of us New Yorkers,” said Jim Anderson, State Vice President of Citizen Action of NY and Buffalo resident. “The destructive policies being pushed in D.C. would negatively impact health coverage for over 2.7 million New Yorkers, driving the number of uninsured individuals to over 4 million statewide. In Erie County alone, the Governor’s office estimates that over 93,000 people would lose health care coverage. This is inhumane and unacceptable. A universal, public healthcare program is the only solution to the current healthcare crisis. We need to guarantee healthcare for all. Our city and county elected officials need to actively support passage of New York Health Act.”
“As a healthcare consumer, I have been uninsured, and my family underinsured,” said Sara Palmer, a Buffalo resident and member of the Campaign for New York Health who testified at the Buffalo Council meeting.. “At times we’ve gone years without dental or proper vision coverage, high co-pays and deductibles, diagnostic tests deemed elective and denied by insurance companies, inability to afford necessary medications, or even a primary care physician, has caused medical debt that follows us still today. I support the New York Health Act because healthcare is a human right as defined in our U.S. Constitution, “to promote the General Welfare” of our people.”
“In every set of contract negotiations we participate in, health insurance is one of the most difficult issues we confront,” said Debora Hayes, Area Director Communications Workers of America. “Employers are constantly proposing to shift more health care costs to workers in the form of increased cost sharing of premiums increased deductibles, co-insurances and co-pays. With annual premium costs rising about 14% per year, it is almost impossible to negotiate wage increases that keep up with increasing out of pocket health care expenses. New York Health would treat health care as a human right and solve many of the problems faced by the uninsured and underinsured.”
“There’s only one way to cover everyone and save money, and that’s with the New York Health Act,” states Ursula Rozum, Upstate Coordinator with the Campaign for New York Health. The New York Health Act will provide universal, comprehensive health care coverage and billions of dollars in savings for New York families, businesses, and local governments. All New Yorkers would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: primary, preventive, specialists, hospital, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug, and medical supply costs. The care provided under New York Health would be more comprehensive than plans offered by health insurance companies today. There would be no out-of-pocket costs as barriers to health care.
A detailed study of the New York Health Act, conducted by Professor Gerald Friedman of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, showed tens of billions in savings by streamlining the administration of our healthcare system to a single-payer funding stream. Most of the savings is found in eliminating insurance company administrative cost and profits, and slashing the enormous administrative costs health care providers spend to deal with insurance companies. Another significant area of savings is due to negotiating better prices for drugs with the pharmaceutical companies; and for medical devices with their manufacturers.
The New York Health Act will establish a trust fund that pools federal funding from Medicare, Medicaid, children’s health plans and other federal entitlements. A progressive payroll tax on income and a capital gains tax on unearned income will also be paid into the fund. These sources of funding will replace health care premiums, deductibles, and copays. This is vitally important: the health act creates new taxes, but those taxes replace all other health care spending. 98% of all households will be spending less on health care under the New York Health Act.
While it is funded through taxes based on ability to pay, it relieves tax burdens in other areas. For example, New York is one of the only states that requires counties to contribute to Medicaid. The New York Health Act will shift those costs from the county back to the appropriate level of government – the state. This will reduce counties’ costs significantly. In 2012, Erie County paid $242 million into Medicaid, which is equal to 82% of what the county collected in property taxes. Eliminating the local share of Medicaid will give Erie County the ability to lower property taxes, create an emergency surplus for economic downturns, rebuild infrastructure like failing roads and bridges, and fund other important programs.