GNS: Legislators Hopeful re Passage of Single Payer Insurance Bill

Assembly Health Chair: 2013 ‘A Superb Year’ To Pass Single-Payer Insurance

byJessica Bakeman Gannett News Service March 8, 2013

Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, has carried a single-payer health care bill in New York for more than two decades. But Thursday, he said this is the year it will pass.

The bill, dubbed New York Health, replaces insurance company coverage with publicly sponsored universal health insurance. Patients contribute to the program based on their “ability to pay,” so higher-wage earners pay a higher percentage and low-income workers pay less.

A similar bill passed in Vermont in 2011. In New York, the bill has passed the Assembly only once-in 1992.

“Getting a bill like this to the floor and passed takes a lot of work from advocacy groups. And over the years, advocacy groups from year-to-year have been more focused on what were seen as more urgent, pressing issues, including fighting for better health care reform at the federal level,” Gottfried said Thursday at a noon news conference. “I think this year is really a superb year to refocus that effort on this issue, and I expect that to happen.”

He said he is “optimistic” about the bill’s chances in the Assembly, where it has 74 sponsors. Sen. Bill Perkins, also a Manhattan Democrat, used the word “optimistic” as well to describe his feelings about the bill’s outcome in the Senate, where there are 11 sponsors.

Gottfried dismissed the argument that New York should wait to see the full implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act before changing to a universal health-care system.

He said he knows how the Affordable Care Act will work.

“We know what things it tries to change and what things it doesn’t try to change,” he said. “It doesn’t prevent insurance companies from skyrocketing premiums. It doesn’t give us premiums based on ability to pay. We already see the insurance industry moving to jack up premiums in anticipation of the ACA. We already see a growing number of employers planning on dropping health coverage. We see more and more insurance plans having high deductibles, which to most people, means you’re paying premiums, and you’re getting nothing in exchange. And the core of the ACA is to leave the vast majority of us in the hands of insurance companies.

“So there’s really nothing that we need to wait to see how it works, because it’s all out on the table, we can do a lot better,” he finished.

"New York Health" Single Payer Bill Provides Comprehensive Coverage Regardless of Income

Legislative News Release

A plan to provide all New Yorkers with comprehensive health care coverage has been introduced in the State Legislature. "New York Health," a universal health care bill, replaces insurance company coverage, premiums, co-pays, and limited choices of providers. Instead, it would provide publicly-sponsored coverage with a benefit package more comprehensive than most commercial health plans, with full choices of doctors and other providers. The bill, A.5389/S.2078, was introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Senator Bill Perkins and is co-sponsored by 83 other legislators.

Gottfried and Perkins were joined at the Albany press conference today by Laurie Wen, Executive Director, Physicians for a National Health Program - NY Metro, Dr. Paul Sorum, former Chair of the Capital District chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, Vito Grasso, Executive Vice President of the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, Doug Bullock of the Albany County Central Federation of Labor, Rev. Frances Rosenau, Associate Minister at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Mark Dunlea, co-founder of Single Payer New York and Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, and Lisa Blodgett, RN, of the New York State Nurses Association.

New York would be the second state to pass groundbreaking legislation providing for a single-payer health plan. Vermont was the first, in 2011.

"President Obama said, 'No American should ever spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies.' But it shouldn't be just our golden years," said Assembly Member Gottfried.

"Healthcare should be about health, not profit. I applaud Assemblyman Gottfried for recognizing this as the lead sponsor of the single payer bills over the years along with my former colleague Tom Duane, who previously carried this important legislation and recommended that I continue to sponsor it. For some this may be a new issue, but this idea has been around for years and its time has more than come," said Senator Perkins.

No one would have to give up their preferred doctors or other providers. Instead of individuals and employers paying high premiums, deductibles and co-pays, the coverage would be funded through a graduated tax on income, based on ability to pay. New Yorkers would be covered for all medically necessary services including primary, preventive, and specialist care; hospital; mental health; reproductive health; dental; vision; prescription drug; and medical supply costs.

"Health care should be a right, not a privilege. Coverage should be driven by the needs of patients, not insurance companies and stockholders," Assembly Member Gottfried said. "You and your doctor work to keep you healthy. New York Health will pay the bill."

"I have always advocated that your health is your wealth. Affordable health care demands broad bipartisan support. I'm proud to sponsor this important bill and look forward to working with my colleagues and the governor to see it become law," Senator Perkins added.

For most people, New York Health will represent a net income savings compared to the current, regressive system of insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.

Single payer models have dramatically lower administrative costs than private insurance. In 2009, the New York State Department of Health and Insurance Department found that a single-payer system would provide universal coverage at a lower total cost than plans relying on private, employer-based coverage.[1]

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"A single payer system is the only reform that will actually address the enormous cost of redundant administrative requirements by providing one uniform public plan offering the same level of quality care for all New Yorkers. It also includes a collective bargaining component to empower physicians to better advocate for patient safeguards and ensure that there is deference to clinical decision making by physicians." -Vito Grasso, Executive Vice President of the New York State Academy of Family Physicians

"New York healthcare costs are fifth-highest in the country, but our outcomes are near the bottom. We spend too much money on administrative functions and care for catastrophic conditions, much of which could be treated earlier with routine disease management. We support New York Health because our dollars should be spent on health care, not multiple, inefficient, inadequate insurance plans." -Lisa Blodgett, RN, New York State Nurses Association

"With single payer, New York manufacturing would be more competitive with the western European countries and Canada that have had universal health care for decades. Single payer would be a big boost for unleashing creativity and entrepreneurship by permitting bright young students to start their own businesses without having to choose work in particular industries simply for health insurance." -Wayne Bayer, Public Employees Federation Executive Board Member and Delegate to the Albany and Troy Labor Councils

"Right now, five New Yorkers die every day due to lack of health care, and many go bankrupt from medical bills. That is unacceptable and inhumane. A universal, publicly financed health care system would save lives AND money. It's a win-win situation for patients, physicians, and our economy." -Laurie Wen, Executive Director, Physicians for a National Health Program- NY Metro

"High health care bills are one of the main reasons that 3 million New Yorkers have to use emergency food programs annually. Unfortunately, the new Federal health insurance mandate will still leave many New Yorkers without access to affordable, quality care. We need a state single payer health care bill to make sure everyone is covered." -Mark Dunlea, co-founder of Single Payer New York and Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State

"What physicians want, above all, is to provide all our patients regardless of their insurance with the health care we and they think they need. Please, New York State legislators, adopt this bill and allow us to take care of our patients rather than their insurance companies." -Dr. Paul Sorum, former Chair of the Capital District chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program

[1] "Reforms to Achieve Quality, Affordable Coverage for All New Yorkers," New York State Department of Health / Insurance Department Partnership for Coverage, July 17, 2009.

We Can Do Better: "New York Health" Can Bring Us All Better Health Care, Better Coverage, at Lower Cost

The Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") has made major improvements in how health care is delivered and paid for. But it still leaves insurance companies with too much control of our health and our wallets. Premiums skyrocket, while patients and their doctors try to figure out what is covered and then try to get reimbursed.

New York can do better. We can get better coverage, get all of us covered, and save billions by having New York provide publicly-sponsored, single-payer health coverage, like Medicare or Child Health Plus for everyone. It's called the "New York Health" bill, introduced in Albany.

Like other basic services such as education, police, fire protection, and roads, paying for health care should be a public responsibility. We should not be at the mercy of insurance companies and their ever-increasing premiums. Health care should be a basic right, not a privilege or a commodity.

Governor Cuomo's Medicaid redesign work has made great strides to improve health care and reign in health costs in the Medicaid program that serves millions of low-income patients. Now it's time to help the millions of New York residents and businesses that currently buy private insurance. The majority of doctors, nurses, and patients prefer a single payer system, as do many small businesses and unions. It would save taxpayers and businesses billions of dollars while improving health care for everyone.

Vermont is creating a single-payer system for that state. New York should, too. Despite the political climate in Washington, states like New York have a history of recognizing our responsibility to protect the right to health care for all. We can and should do better.

The "New York Health" bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Health Committee chair Richard N. Gottfried (A.5389) and in the Senate by Bill Perkins (S.2078). For the full text of the bill, see below or go to and type: A5389.

About the New York Health Bill

New York Health is a program to provide comprehensive, universal health coverage for every New Yorker. Publicly-sponsored coverage would replace private insurance company coverage. You and your health care providers work to keep you healthy. New York Health pays the bill. Health care would be funded fairly.

Freedom of choice: Patients would have the freedom to choose their health care providers. You would keep the doctors or other health care providers that you choose. And patients and their doctors - not insurance companies - would make health care decisions.

Comprehensive coverage: All New Yorkers would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: primary, preventive, and specialist care; hospital; mental health; reproductive health care; dental; vision; prescription drug; and medical supply costs. It would provide a full benefit package to all New Yorkers that is more comprehensive than most commercial health plans.

Funded fairly: Instead of individuals and employers paying high premiums, deductibles and co-pays, the coverage would be funded through a graduated tax on payroll and non-payroll income based on ability to pay. Today, an insurance company wants the same premium whether they're covering a CEO or a receptionist, a successful company or a start-up just getting by.

The cost of New York Health would not be new spending. It's money now going to insurance companies - minus the billions we now pay for insurance company's administrative costs. For most people, it will be a substantial reduction in what they now spend. When employers and individuals aren't "taxed" by out-of-control insurance company premiums and deductibles, most people's take-home pay will go up.

Federal and state funds that now pay for Medicare, Medicaid, Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus would be folded into the New York Health Trust Fund to help pay for the program. New York Health would eliminate the local share of funding for Medicaid.

Greater accountability, less waste, better care: We'd be paying for health care - not for huge insurance company administrative costs and profits, and not paying for the time and paperwork of dealing with insurance companies.

Health coverage would be accountable to the people of New York, not to insurance company stockholders.

A business-friendly solution: Single payer reduces costs for business - large and small - by eliminating the need for any employer to provide health coverage for its workers. That would make New York dramatically more job-friendly, especially for small businesses, start-ups and low-margin businesses, while offering better and more secure coverage to every New Yorker.

The most affordable way to achieve universal coverage: In 2009, a report by the New York State Health and Insurance Departments, based on an analysis by the Urban Institute, found that a single-payer plan would have the lowest-cost for providing universal coverage, compared to plans relying on insurance companies and employment-based coverage.

A growing list of support: The New York Health bill is endorsed by the New York chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians (internal medicine), the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, and the New York State Nurses Association. Single-payer coverage has broad labor union support and 85 members of the State Legislature.