For years, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried has introduced a bill creating a single-payer health care system in New York. Gottfried and Sen. Gustavo Rivera on Monday reintroduced the measure on Monday.
And this year, with a pandemic claiming tens of thousands of lives in New York and exposing new cracks in the health care system, is different, advocates for the measure said.
“New Yorkers elected a Democratic super-majority in the middle of a pandemic as a mandate to enact bold transformational changes, including the New York Health Act,” said Ursula Rozum, the co-director of the Campaign for NY Health. “This bill must be central to a just and equitable recovery from this pandemic and brought to a vote this year.”
The bill is once again being proposed as the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected people of color and low-income communities, straining hospital networks in the process. At the same time, the pandemic has strained the existing social safety net.
“Health care disparities are amplified in a pandemic, but they aren’t new,” Gottfried said. “It’s shocking that people can come out of COVID-19 treatment with massive medical debt, but people also shouldn’t face financial obstacles or hardships for cancer treatment, having a baby, or other health care. The New York Health Act, a single-payer system, will guarantee that all New Yorkers regardless of income or job status can focus on their health and health care, not medical bills.”
Its passage, despite large Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, still remains unlikely. Business organizations, which have formed a coalition opposing the bill in recent years, pointed to the tax increases needed to help pay for it.
“Poll after poll continue to show the vast majority of New Yorkers are happy with their current health plan," said Heather Briccetti, the president and CEO of the Business Council of NYS. "Given our current economic situation at the state level, continuing to suggest replacing our system with one that triples taxes and kills jobs makes less sense than ever.”
Still, supporters linked the measure to a broader recovery of the state's economy as the pandemic-induced recession has led to higher unemployment and jobless claims.
“What the COVID-19 public health crisis has made abundantly clear is that the New York Health Act must be considered as an integral component of our State's post-pandemic recovery," said Rivera, the Senate Health Committee chairman.
“As we reintroduce this bill, I am incredibly proud that the majority of members in both the Assembly and the Senate co-sponsor and support the legislation. This is a testament to the willingness of New Yorkers to fundamentally change the way healthcare is delivered in our State, which will help us attain health equity and address the deep health disparities further unearthed by this crisis.”