New York Assembly passes the New York Health Act

Assembly passes universal health care bill

By Dan Goldberg 
Capital New York, May 27, 2015

The state Assembly on Wednesday voted for a single-payer health bill, the first time in more than two decades the chamber has taken up the measure.

The vote was 89-47, an overwhelming but largely symbolic step toward universal health insurance. The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate where it is not expected to pass. 

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, chair of the health committee, gave an impassioned speech on the floor in support of the New York Health Act, arguing that it was long past time for New Yorkers to rid themselves of the intrusive insurance companies whose goal is to deny claims rather than provide care.

The plan's benefits, Gottfried said, would be more generous than any plan on the current market, and there would be no co-pays or deductibles.

One problem, pointed out by Republicans, is that the offering, while generous, is the opposite of what public health officials are pushing, including those in the Cuomo administration, who have professed that insurance systems, and high deductibles and co-pays help ensure people use the health system judiciously instead of opting for more, often unnecessary, care.

"There is a role for insurance companies," state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Wednesday before the debate.

The passing of the Affordable Care Act, which subsidizes private insurance for people below a certain income level, was a valid effort, Gottfried said, but ultimately served to highlight why the system needs to be entirely scrapped.

"I think the A.C.A. has made it clear to people ... there are profound problems in our health care system that cannot be addressed by incremental change in that system," Gottfried said.



By Don McCanne, MD

Although there remains considerable political resistance to the concept of a universal public health insurance program, the fact that Richard Gottfried’s New York Health Act passed the Assembly by such a wide margin, 89-47, shows that there is very strong support for single payer reform amongst many politicians and the voters who support them.

The policies incorporated in a publicly-administered and publicly-financed single payer model of health care financing are vastly more efficient and effective than a fragmented, multi-payer model such as that perpetuated by the Affordable Care Act. But better policy alone does not equate with an improved understanding of the models. That is why coalitions, education, and grassroots support is so important. These activities in New York undoubtedly contributed to moving the bill through the Assembly.

In an email message, Mark Dunlea, co-founder of Single Payer New York, listed coalition members supporting the New York Health Act:

“New York Health has been endorsed by the NYS Academy of Family Physicians, NYS American Academy of Pediatrics, NYS Nurses Association, Committee of Interns and Residents, Doctors Council SEIU, NY chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, SEIU 1199, NYS AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 and 1179, United Auto Workers 9 & 9A, UFCW Local 1500, Capital District Area Labor Federation, Local 32BJ SEIU, NYSUT, United Federation of Teachers, Working Families Party, Green Party, Citizen Action, StateWide Senior Action Council, NYPIRG, League of Women Voters, and others.”

Those of us at Physicians for a National Health Program are particularly proud of the contribution of the New York Metro chapter of PNHP.

The lesson is clear. The health policies enacted through the Affordable Care Act, though of some limited benefit, are grossly inadequate when considering the need that exists. When people understand that there is a far better option, they will support it. Obviously we have much more work to do, so it is imperative that we step up our efforts in educating the public and in mobilizing grassroots efforts through coalition activities.