As CoViD-19 cases are rising and fears grow of another winter outbreak, many New Yorkers are worried about their physical, mental and financial health. On Saturday, healthcare workers, patients, community members and elected officials from Westchester, New York City and Long Island rallied in Harlem in support of the New York Health Act to urge state leaders to prioritize passing the bill during the 2022 legislative session to help ensure an equitable recovery from the CoViD-19 pandemic. The New York Health Act (A6058/S5475) will guarantee the right to quality healthcare for everyone in New York State by establishing a universal, single-payer program to cover all residents of New York State regardless of income, place of employment or immigration status. Livestream here. Speaker list here.
The New York Health Act would create a comprehensive single-payer healthcare system for people who live or work in New York State. Under the plan, care would be provided free at the point of service. Patients have their choice of providers (including long-term and mental healthcare) without co-pays, deductibles or premiums. Most New Yorkers would pay less for care than they do now, with a more comprehensive benefit package. A 2018 Rand Corporation study estimated the bill would create a net savings to the state over 10 years while also increasing coverage. New York’s uninsured rate hovers around five percent, or about a million people, according to data from the Census Bureau, but many more are underinsured and either delay or go without treatment or medication due to cost.
“Millions of New Yorkers cannot afford the health coverage they need. And that means millions of New Yorkers delaying getting health care or never getting it. There are even millions of New Yorkers with health insurance who do not get the health care they need because of cost, or suffer financial hardship to get it,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair and bill sponsor Richard Gottfried. “That is unacceptable. Almost every problem we face in health or health care is made worse and harder to solve because of the way we pay for health care. The New York Health Act is the only way to fix it.”
Healthcare workers said they need the NY Health Act for their patients, themselves & their families. CoViD-19 has exacerbated the inequities that existed before the pandemic. Healthcare that is tied to employment is precarious for all workers and their families. Segregated care has caused so much suffering and death for BIPOC, poor and disabled communities, especially during the pandemic as communities who carry the greatest burden of exposure, with disproportionately more serving as essential workers and disproportionately fewer having access to healthcare.
“This pandemic has uncovered the ugly truth about New York’s healthcare: it is a system of have and have-nots. Healthcare should be a right for every New Yorker,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Senate Health Committee Chair and sponsor of the bill. “I want to sincerely thank all the activists who are fighting for the New York Health Act. I remain committed to working with every single stakeholder to ensure that we have a bill that will truly guarantee healthcare to all New Yorkers.”
The New York Health Act is sponsored by 119 state legislators, including 86 Assemblymembers and 33 Senators — majorities of both bodies. The legislators in attendance represented districts that collectively are home to more than a dozen of downstate’s busiest hospitals. The bill has the backing of key unions, including 1199 SEIU, NYS Nurses Association, and the Committee of Interns & Residents, which together represent nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers. In addition to insuring more New Yorkers and lowering healthcare costs for the state and consumers, the state would be in a better position to bargain down the costs of prescription drugs.
“As nurses, we believe that the New York Health Act is more critical today than ever,” said President Nancy Hagans, RN, New York State Nurses Association. “The pandemic showed us what happens when a deadly virus strikes and quality universal care is lacking: communities of color suffer death rates at twice or more that of white communities. Insurance rates continue to grow, year after year, eating up more household income and intensifying stress on families. Patient need should govern healthcare access, not ability to pay, and that’s what the New York Health Act promises. Now is the time!”
“As doctors, our utmost priority is the well-being of the people we serve. Yet, we bear witness every day to the harm and injustices which our current healthcare system inflicts on our patients — be it financial devastation or preventable injury or death from delaying care,” said Dr. Kaushal Khambhait, a member and leader of the Committee of Interns and Residents SEIU and an Emergency Medicine resident in the Bronx. “It is incredibly difficult to do our job and care for our patients in these conditions. It is even harder when we are forced to negotiate for our own healthcare. It is time to take healthcare off the bargaining table and guarantee healthcare as a right for all by passing the New York Health Act.”
“As we continue to recover from the CoViD-19 pandemic, we urgently need to pass the New York Health Act,” said YuLing Koh Hsu, Co-Director of the Campaign for NY Health. “Our healthcare system failed communities of color, working people and poor people long before the pandemic started and it’s clear we need to change the system to put people ahead of insurance corporation profits. It’s clear we need universal healthcare in the state that is not tied to an individual’s job but recognizes that healthcare is a human right. We have the votes. The bill is politically popular and New Yorkers statewide are demanding our lawmakers pass the NY Health Act now.”
“Every day, doctors treating CoViD-19 see the grossly disproportionate rates of illness and death in communities of color, partly due to the inequities in financing hospitals and clinics. Under the New York Health Act, every hospital would get reimbursed adequately, regardless of its patients’ insurance status. This would give care providers the tools and funds they need to provide quality care, especially in pandemics, and universal coverage would ensure that patients don’t need to postpone urgent care because they fear high costs,“ said Dr. Oliver Fein, Professor Emeritus of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Board Chair of the New York Metro Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.
“On top of being a full-time student and working part-time to cover expenses such as books, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses, paying extraneous lab and hospital bills from services I receive can often be difficult to pay out of pocket,” said NYPIRG member and Hunter College student Isabellah Paul. “We as students should not be deterred from maintaining our health out of fear that we cannot financially afford to cover it. I urge the passing of the NY Health Act to promote feasibility for students in covering their hospital-related bills.”
“We’re some of the 250,000 retired city workers slated for an involuntary shift from traditional Medicare to a for-profit Medicare Advantage plan. The so-called “Advantage” plan would shrink our choice of providers and dangerously limit our care by requiring pre-approval for dozens of commonplace medical procedures,” said Julie Schwartzberg of the Cross Union Retirees Organizing Committee (CROC). “We love our Medicare, which has been great for us, but the City of New York is hell-bent on saving money by robbing us of a worry-free retirement. Medicare is an effective government program that should be expanded to all, not privatized. No New Yorkers should go to bed worrying about medical coverage. If we had single payer in NY, this wouldn’t be an issue!”
“I have seen and felt the consequences of the failures of health care in NY, especially its effects on the student population. In addition to their schoolwork, jobs, family obligations, and the weight of student debt, students today grapple with increased health issues, especially mental health, which has been amplified by the pandemic. We shouldn’t have to choose between dinner and a doctor’s visit. We need the NY Health Act now!” said Sadiya Hoque, NYPIRG Board of Directors Chairperson and Brooklyn College student.
“Passing the New York Health Act is an urgent and necessary step toward alleviating the financial and emotional burden our current healthcare system imposes on working families.” said Sam Ghazey, NY State Coordinator for Our Revolution. “Healthcare is a human right that is only afforded to big businesses and well-off individuals while leaving the most vulnerable to struggle with under-coverage and out of pocket expenses they cannot afford. Every New Yorker deserves coverage regardless of race, gender, creed, or ability to pay.”
“I witnessed helplessly as our community was overcome by the most devastating healthcare crisis in over a century – our hospitals overwhelmed, our clinics shut down and our people dying before our eyes, our healthcare system already broken before the pandemic crumbling right in front of us,” said Dr. Iman Hassan with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. “I choose to live in a world where everyone has access to healthcare – no matter who you are, where you are from, how you look like, or how much money you have, I am asking you for the moral courage to pass the NY health act.”
“The New York Health Act is critical to address the crisis of despair in our society which has led to unprecedented numbers of fatal overdoses and substance use disorders, sucide and emotional distress which has been heightened by the pandemic,” said Steve Rabinowitz of the Lower Hudson Valley Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. “Scarce time and funding is being spent to meet the demands of insurers which could be used for prevention, treatment and recovery supports for those struggling with addiction and mental illness. Prior authorizations and denials are barriers to care that will be abolished with single payer in New York.”
“If the ongoing CoViD-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that New Yorkers need a robust universal health care program to work ourselves though it and successfully prevent or manage any future pandemic that may come our way,” said Mark Hannay, Director of Metro New York Health Care for All. “Universal health care programs are a fundamental component of any sound public health program. The New York Health Act offers an very good framework for the Governor and State Legislature to take up and craft into a universal health care program covering all New Yorkers.”
“Lack of access to health care kills approximately 2000 New Yorkers each year. Poorer zip codes suffer from asthma, diabetes, maternal morbidity, hypertension, and opioid deaths at higher rates than wealthier zip codes. The New York Health Act would immediately relieve poor communities from the increasing costs of health insurance, and allow doctors to provide consistent, equitable life-saving care to this population.” said Helen Krim, Northwest Bronx Indivisible Steering Committee and Health Justice Chair.
“As a direct action group, we protest in the streets, fighting for racial, gender, disability, and economic justice across New York City — including healthcare as a human right. We must enact the New York Health Act to guarantee healthcare for all New Yorkers,” said Jackie Goldenberg and Ann Rubin, members of Rise and Resist. “We have held nine community #BedsNotBodyBags vigils since the start of the pandemic — to remember those who have died from it — and to alert the public and media we must demand our elected officials end the gross inequity of public and safety net hospital closures now, often in the neighborhoods most affected by the pandemic. Why should New Yorkers endure a patchwork and discriminatory healthcare system that leaves far too many poor, low wealth and people of color either underinsured or uninsured, and without access to care in their communities? The New York Health Act will go a long way to help our city and state address this crisis.”
Image courtesy of Jeff Mikkelsson.
About The Campaign for New York Health
The Campaign for New York Health is a 501c4 statewide coalition dedicated to passing and implementing legislation for universal single-payer healthcare in New York State. CNYH brings together over 150 organizations representing: community groups, labor unions, seniors, people with disabilities, nurses, teachers, patients, doctors, business leaders, faith groups, immigrants, and healthcare advocates, committed to the right to healthcare.
To learn more, please visit nyhcampaign.org.