Since 1991, New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (NY-75) has fought for single-payer healthcare in the state. This year, he may get his chance.
In the wake of the pandemic, the New York Health Act–which Gottfried has co-sponsored with Assemblyman Gustavo Rivera– is gaining momentum in Albany. Assemblyman Gottfried credits this mainly to the supermajority in the state legislature.
“The pandemic has certainly heightened the need and heightened a lot of people’s awareness of the need [for universal health coverage],” he said, “but a key factor was people who support the bill getting elected to the State Senate.”
While the bill is likely to have the votes to pass, not everyone is on board with the New York Health Act. Business interest organizations have created a coalition to oppose the bill.
The Business Council of New York State, Inc. released a poll that was taken last November, stating that 91 percent of New Yorkers want to keep their existing health insurance plan. The poll found that 52 percent of New Yorkers who learn that the bill will eliminate private insurance oppose it.
Assemblyman Gottfried believes that New Yorkers who are reticent towards the bill will come around once it is enacted.
“If your ship sinks, floating wreckage is very popular,” he said. “People who have no other health coverage, are happy to be able to spend a lot of money for health coverage that has major gaps in it, because it’s better than nothing.”
“It will cut costs that we now waste on insurance companies, bureaucracy, marketing and profit,” said Assemblyman Gottfried. “New York health would also bring down the cost of prescription drugs dramatically, thanks to its tremendous bargaining clout. So that’s how we cover the New Yorkers who don’t have coverage.”
The nonpartisan RAND Corporation estimates that the New York Health Act will save $55 billion overall, by getting rid of private insurance profits, simplifying administrative costs, and cutting drug prices through the bargaining power of 20 million or so consumers.
Taxes for the program will be distributed based on income level. Employers will foot 80 percent of the payroll tax, while employees will pay the remaining 20 percent. Those in the $25,000 income bracket pay nothing in taxes.
With regard to mental health care, the New York Health Act will improve access by means of eliminating private insurance, which has been a barrier for some Americans with health insurance seeking mental health care.
Under the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008, insurance providers are required to offer substance abuse and mental health treatment at the same financial level any physical health procedure or treatment would cost. However, this law has not always been abided by, as the National Council for Well Being reported that 42 percent struggle to afford their mental health care.
“Under the New York Health Act, there would be no restricted provider networks, no premiums, no deductibles, no co-pays,” said Assemblyman Gottfried. “The law would require that health care providers be paid fees that are reasonably related to cost, and that they guarantee an adequate supply of the service. We have none of those guarantees today.”