Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus advocate for single payer health care

By Matthew Dondiego
The Legislative Gazette (Albany, N.Y.), May 7, 2014

During a rally Wednesday on the Capitol's Million Dollar Staircase in support of single-payer health care reform, the state's Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus formally announced its support for the New York Health bill.

The bill (S.2078A/A.5389) would implement a universal, single-payer health care system, accessible to all New Yorkers, free of premiums, deductibles and co-pays, regardless of a person's income — health coverage would be publicly funded.

Federal funding for state health programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Family Health and Child Health plus would be pooled together, along with state revenue, to be controlled by a newly established New York Health Trust Fund, according to language in the bill.

"A single-payer program will give us better care, more effective care at a lower cost and a cost that is more fairly distributed," said Dick Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health Committee and the Assembly sponsor of the bill. "Health care is a fundamental human right, a public good; it is not a commodity like a nicer car or fancier clothing."

Gottfried, a liberal-leaning Manhattan Democrat, said he was "delighted" to receive the support of the caucus.

Advocates for health care reform say that while the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has improved the nation's health care system, minority and underserved communities are facing a health care crisis.

"If someone has to choose between milk and getting health care, rent and health care, the crisis is there," said Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public's Health System. "The only way you can address health disparities is trying to get everyone insured, everyone, regardless of their status."

Sen. Bill Perkins, the Senate sponsor of the bill, proclaimed, "Your health is your wealth" while calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to throw his support behind the movement.

One obstacle to enacting a single payer health care system, Perkins said, was the governor's "benign neglect" of the issue and noted the governor's political weight would help the movement reform the state's health care network.

The issued has recently garnered impressive endorsements from a number of powerful unions such as the health care workers union 1199SEIU, a political powerhouse in the state; as well as 32BJ SEIU; the New York State Nurses Association; the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; and the Communications Workers of America, among others.

Single-payer health care reform was introduced and passed in 1992, although failing to become enacted into law, the issue as not been introduced in either house since then.

PNHP note: The Albany Times-Union has published the following collection of photos from the May 6 lobby day: