NEW YORK NURSE: July/August 2011
by Erin Silk
Legislation that is being introduced before the State Assembly signals a renewed commitment to providing affordable health care for all New Yorkers.
“New York Health” single payer plan, sponsored by Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), chair of the Assembly Health Committee, and Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan), ranking member of the Senate Health Committee, was announced at an Albany press conference on June 7. The legislation would create a publicly-sponsored insurance plan; replacing employer-based, traditional insurance premium coverage. Financing would be based on ability to pay.
“We can get better coverage, get us all covered, and save billions,” Gottfried said of the plan.
NYSNA has long held the position that health care is a right, not an option, and has continued to fight over the years for access to quality health care for all New Yorkers. During the press conference, Gottfried specifically acknowledged NYSNA’s role in advocating for the issue and bringing it to his attention: “It was 20 years ago, almost to the day, when a handful of advocates came and sat down with me in my office and walked me through the logic of single payer coverage. It was like an entire array of light bulbs going off in my brain and this has been my firm belief ever since. One of the groups that was part of the delegation that day was the New York State Nurses Association and it is one of the many things that New York’s nurses have taught me over the years.”
“New York Health” is modeled after the proposed national single-payer plan, but includes critical provisions to ensure greater access to quality care. Coverage would be funded through a graduated tax on income, rather than from high insurance premiums currently shouldered by individuals and employers. The plan would also allow participants to keep their current healthcare providers and eliminate co-pays and deductibles. Current federal, state and local expenditures for health care services, including those through Medicare and Medicaid, would be incorporated into the new plan to help pay for the program.
“Federal healthcare reform made major improvements, but it still leaves insurance companies with too much control over premiums. Premiums are unrelated to a consumer’s ability to pay. Too often, patients and their doctors are left trying to figure out what is covered and then trying to get reimbursed. New York State can do better,” said the bill’s Senate sponsor Thomas Duane.
New York would be the second state to adopt such comprehensive coverage, with Vermont having signed similar legislation into law in May. “With universal healthcare coverage stalled at the national level, New York must move forward with legislation that provides a comprehensive plan of its own. The health of our most vulnerable citizens depends on it,” said NYSNA CEO Tina Gerardi.
The “New York Health” single payer plan has been introduced in both houses of the legislature and awaits consideration. It is being co-sponsored by 62 other legislators.