Posted on May 7, 2008

Labor, Faith, Seniors, Consumer Groups Rally at New York State Capitol in Support of Single Payer Universal Health Care


News Release: Single Payer rally at the state Capitol

Studies Show Single Payer would cut health care costs will giving consumers choice of doctors and hospitals

Capital District Alliance for Universal Healthcare
New Yorkers for Single Payer Universal Healthcare
Hunger Action Network of New York State

Media Release

For Release: May 6, 2008
For More Information: Dr. Richard Propp, 518-482-0420
Mark Dunlea 518 434-7371 xt 1#

Single payer universal health care advocates rallied today at the State Capitol in support of action at both the national and state level.

Representatives of unions, nurses, doctors, seniors, consumer and faith groups urged the state legislature to pass a resolution urging Congress to pass HR 676, known as Medicare for All. As. Felix Ortiz sponsors the Assembly resolution. HR 676 has 90 cosponsors, including NY Congressional representatives Engel, Hinchey, Maloney, McNulty, Nader, Owens, Rangel, Serrano, Towns, Weiner and Velazquez.

The groups are also urging the state to adopt a single payer system as soon as possible. Single payer legislation (A7354 Gottfried / S3107 Schneiderman) is pending in both the Assembly and Senate. A majority of Assembly members (85) are co-sponsors of the single payer bill.

Speakers included Rabbi Donald Cashman, B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation of Albany; Priscilla Bassett, Pres. Sullivan County Senior Legislative Action Committee and V-P StateWide Senior Action Council; Deborah Elliott, MBA, RN, Deputy Executive Officer of the NYS Nurses Association; Mike Keenan, President, Troy Area Labor Council; Matt Funiciello, owner of Rock Hill Bakehouse; Rebecca Elgie of the Tompkins Health Care Task Force; Cheryl Gelder-Kogan of Capital District Alliance for Universal Health Care (CDAUH); Mary Wojtyk, student at Albany Medical College, Patti Young, a nurse and a concerned health care consumer and musician Ruth Pelham. The rally was sponsored by CDAUH, New Yorkers for Single Payer Universal Health Care and The Hunger Action Network of New York State

“The cost and coverage of health insurance has become problematic for many working Americans and a major stumbling block in settling union contract negotiations. HR 676 would save billions of dollars annually by eliminating high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs. The transition to single-payer national health care would apply these savings to expanded and improved coverage for all. That is why the 2007 annual meeting of the Capital District Area Labor Federation unanimously endorsed HR676, and the National AFL-CIO is supporting a universal health care system based upon the successful Medicare program for seniors.” stated Mike Keenan, President, Troy Area Labor Council and a Vice President of the Capital District Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

The Troy Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO represents 10,000 union members and their families in Rensselaer County. The Capital District Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO represents 100,000 union members throughout the Capital District Region.

The State Legislature last year appropriated funds for the state to study how it could most cost-effectively provide health care to all New Yorkers. The legislature required that one of the systems to be studied be a single payer system. Most doctors now support a single payer system as to most health care advocacy groups. Advocates are concerned however that the organization hired by the state to do the studies, Urban Institute, has repeatedly spoken out against single payer health care. Every other state that has done the study process so far has concluded the a single payer system would do the best job of providing quality health care to all residents while controlling costs and maximizing freedom of choice for consumers.

The groups are particularly critical of the role of private health insurance in the American health care system. As much as a third of every health care dollar going through private health insurance goes to pay for their overhead, profits, marketing costs and excessive CEO salaries. Doctors on average have to hire 2.5 staff people just to deal with the conflicting paperwork, rules and bureaucracy of private health insurance. No other industrial country allows private health insurance to play a dominant role in the health care system. The groups oppose mandates for consumers to purchase private health insurance such as the Massachusetts plan.

“New York nurses pick up the pieces of our broken healthcare system every day. We see uninsured New Yorkers who rely on the emergency room as their main source of health care, as well as those who delay necessary treatment until they are so sick they must be hospitalized. The sad truth is that today’s for-profit, private healthcare insurers have failed, and a universal, single-payer healthcare system is the only true solution.,” said Deborah Elliott, MBA, RN, Deputy Executive Officer of the NYS Nurses Association.

A recent national survey shows a solid majority of doctors, almost 60 percent, supporting government legislation to establish national health insurance (NHI) — a 10 percent increase in support since 2002. (32% oppose it, 9% are neutral) Support for NHI is particularly strong among psychiatrists (83 percent), pediatric sub-specialists (71 percent), emergency medicine physicians (69 percent), general pediatricians (65 percent), general internists (64 percent) and family physicians (60 percent). The survey of 2,193 doctors was done by Indiana University.

Matt Funiciello, owner of Rock Hill Bakehouse in Moreau, NY said, “Access to health care is a necessity, not a luxury and we, as a country, are failing miserably at providing an affordable option for the American worker who simply cannot afford to pay the exorbitant amounts charged by the HMO’s. We are already spending $7100 per person on health care (twice what other industrialized nations pay), yet we somehow manage to leave more than 40 million people without coverage and another 70 million “underinsured”. Its time for us all to do the math. We ALREADY pay out far more than enough in premiums and subsidies and taxes to fully fund adequate coverage for every American right now! It is simply being denied to us by the powers that be and the corporate interests that get them re-elected. I can only ask that those on the Hill stop worrying about their campaign coffers for a minute and do what’s right for America. From doctors to workers to teachers to unions to business groups everywhere, single payer health care is a rational answer to the health care crisis.”

“As I travel across the state I hear that people don’t want to lose what they have that they want CHOICE, however, the choice they want is not a choice of many different insurance plans which is what they are being offered but the freedom to choose WHO will deliver their health CARE or WHAT facility best fits their particular need . A Single payer plan which allows access to any doctor or facility will provide us with MORE CHOICE than we currently have and WE will be making the decision not the insurance co,” added Rebecca Elgie of the Tompkins Co. Health Care Task Force.

Among the hundreds of groups in NY supporting HR 676 include the Physicians for a National Health Program, New York State Nurses Association, NYS Academy of Family Physicians, Healthcare Now, Tompkins County Health Care Task Force, Hunger Action Network of NYS, Healthcare Work Group (Otsego, Delaware & Chenango Counties). Presbyterian Church USA. United Auto Workers, Albany Central Federation of Labor, AFSMCE District Council 37, Professional Staff Congress-CUNY, CWA Local 1180, United University Professions (Local 2190 AFT); Latinos for National Health Insurance.

Single Payer is defined as financing health care expenditures for the entire population through a single source, presumably the government, with funds collected through progressive taxation of citizens and businesses

“The US spends more than twice as much on health care as the average of other developed nations, all of which boast universal coverage. Yet close to 50 million Americans have no health insurance whatsoever, and most others are underinsured, in the sense that they lack adequate coverage for all contingencies (e.g., long-term care and prescription drug costs). Why is the U. S. so different? The short answer is that we alone treat health care as a commodity distributed according to the ability to pay, rather than as a social service to be distributed according to medical need,” said Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of NYS.

While the United States has very skilled health providers, our health care system performs poorly, with its overall quality only ranked 37th by the World Health Organization. US spending on health care is now over 2.1 trillion dollars — nearly $7,000 per person. This is more the double the world average of $2,571. This amounts to a whopping 15.5% of our GNP on health care — far more than any other country — which puts our businesses at a competitive disadvantage in the international marketplace.

“A prime benefit of a national single payer system is that it would save several hundred billion dollars annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry and reducing spending for marketing and other satellite services. Doctors and hospitals would be freed from the burdens and expenses of paperwork created by having to deal with multiple insurers with different rules - often rules designed to avoid payment,” added Dunlea.

A recent study of a single payer system for California showed that it would save $38 billion annually. The legislature passed a single payer system but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it.

Public opinion polls have consistently shown strong public support for a universal health care system. For instance, a March 2007 poll by CBS/ NY Times found that 64 percent of the respondents said the government should guarantee health insurance for all; 27 percent said it should not. An overwhelming majority in the poll said the health care system needed fundamental change or total reorganization.