A steady stride ahead for universal healthcare

Nurses celebrate the successful resolution with Rockland County advocates for the New York Health Act.

What happens when we bring together nurses, community advocates, and elected officials of all stripes?

We win!

The fight for guaranteed healthcare had a big win in Rockland County on December 5 when the county legislature passed — unanimously — a resolution urging the State Senate to take action on the New York Health Act — our state’s universal healthcare bill. This is the fourth county to endorse the legislation, joining Sullivan, Tompkins and Westchester counties, in addition to a dozen towns and villages across the state.

The legislation

If passed, the New York Health Act (A. 4738 / S. 4840) would implement truly universal healthcare and eliminate financial barriers to care, while allowing people to go to the doctor and hospital of their choice. It would replace our current healthcare system that relies on private companies, Medicare and Medicaid with a single system covering all 20 million New Yorkers. Like the rest of the industrialized world, it will give New Yorkers access to healthcare on the basis of need. Gone would be the staggering fear of bankruptcy. Medical bills remain the number one reason for personal bankruptcy in the nation. As a result of the work of committed advocates across the state through the Campaign for New York Health, the bill passed the State Assembly three years in a row — in 2015, 2016, and 2017. There are 31 cosponsors in the NYS Senate; 32 are needed for a majority.

County tax relief

In addition to guaranteeing all residents access to high quality healthcare, the bill would provide significant tax relief at the county level in particular. In Rockland, 55% of the county budget funds Medicaid — and counties across the state face similar fiscal challenges. These funds would be much better spent on infrastructure, roads, and schools, instead of keeping our fragmented healthcare system afloat. The New York Health Act would implement a fair funding model for healthcare, relieving counties of this huge fiscal responsibility that is putting tremendous strain on their budgets.

Republican support

After the vote, Republican legislator Lon M. Hofstein was happy to share his views in support of the bill: “The New York Health Act is a blueprint for the reorganization of healthcare in New York state. The way care is delivered now is increasingly unsustainable, for individuals, families, businesses and government. We must act before the crisis worsens.” NYSNA salutes the bipartisan show of support for an issue that truly affects all New Yorkers.

Four NYSNA members were present to support the vote: RNs Clare Hughes, Chinyere Onwumelu, Maureen Garrabant, and Alyssa Aurellano. Hughes and Onwumelu provided compelling testimony as frontline nurses who see patients at their most vulnerable. They both work in the OR, seeing patients every day who have to battle insurance companies to approve needed surgeries. Often the delays in approval lead to worse — even fatal — outcomes for patients. “I care for patients who are at their most vulnerable. Too many times I see patients having to fight insurance companies to get the care they absolutely need. Patients must literally fight for their lives at times. With the New York Health Act, medical decisions will be made between the doctor, nurse and patient — not a bureaucrat who has no clinical training and has never even set eyes on the patient,” said NYSNA’s Omwumelo, who resides in Rockland County.

Organizing to win

The Rockland County resolution is an excellent example of how grassroots organizing can change what is politically possible when it comes to healthcare reform. With so much at stake — especially with federal threats to Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and the ACA — we can’t pass the New York Health Act soon enough! That way every New Yorker is guaranteed the care they need.

For more information on the Campaign for New York Health, visit www.nyhcampaign.org.

Nurses celebrate the successful resolution with Rockland County advocates for the New York Health Act.

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