A bill that would pave the way for a single-payer health care system in New York cleared the Assembly Health Comittee on Monday as its supporters argue the measure is needed following the COVID-19 pandemic exposing deep flaws in the current system. 

Opponents, however, continued to argue on Monday the bill would be ruinous for the state's finances as well as for employment in the health care sector. 

The measure has been a long-sought one for Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, a Democrat and the longest-serving lawmaker in Albany. 

Advocates for the measure, including Campaign for New York Health Co-Directors Ursula Rozum and YuLing Koh Hsu, pointed to the devastation of the pandemic — both for individual household finances, as well as on health itself — as a key driver for the bill's passage this year. 

“This pandemic is exacerbating the weaknesses and inequities of the current healthcare system and we urgently need a system that guarantees care for everybody — regardless of race, age, immigration or employment status," they said in a joint statement. "New Yorkers will be mobilizing in big numbers to tell the Assembly and the Senate to pass this legislation before the end of session and to tell Governor Cuomo to sign it into law.”  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said in the past a single-payer bill is best left to the federal government, and he has never had the measure put on his desk. Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

The business-backed coalition, Realities of Single Payer, in a statement on Monday warned against the bill advancing further, saying it would be detrimental to health care coverage in the state. The coalition also pointed to newly approved provisions meant to expand coverage, like eliminating Essential Plan premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, while adding coverage for postpartum women. 

"New York should continue to build on the current system with measures like these instead of passing the NYHA, which would add $250 billion in new taxes; the largest tax increase by any state in the history of the country," the group said in a statement. "It would eliminate private health insurance coverage, cutting upwards of 150,000 jobs and forcing everyone onto one state-run health plan. Moreover, it would limit access and quality of care by underfunding hospitals and providers. Based on the experience of the pandemic, do we really want the state Health Department running our entire health care system?"