“Budget Done, Now Health Care for All!” Echoes Through Capitol Halls in Kickoff of Major Push for Comprehensive, Single-Payer Healthcare Bill
(Watch video of press conference/rally here.)
(Albany, NY - April 2, 2019) – Wearing white coats and scrubs, scores of health professionals and students descended on the New York state capital today to call on state legislators to put universal, single-payer health care front and center for the balance of this year’s legislative session now that the state’s annual budget process has finished. Before hitting the halls of the Legislative Office Building, they rallied atop of the Capitol building’s “Million Dollar Staircase” to share stories of patients and their own professional experiences, and to declare their support for the New York Health Act, a bill to create a fully public health insurance program covering all state residents.
“As physicians, we see patients every day suffering needlessly because private health insurance companies charge co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-network fees to discourage treatment, and then ignore physicians’ professional judgment to arbitrarily deny needed care,” said Dr. Sunny Aslam, a Syracuse-based addiction and pain psychiatrist from Physicians for a National Health Program, speaking for 4 of the body’s New York state chapters. “The New York Health Act is the prescription for what ails our addiction to private insurance. Especially welcome in the new bill is the inclusion of long-term support and services, which now impoverishes so many patients and families. Our state stands very close to becoming an icon for health care in the U.S.A., rejecting a model that prices out many poor and working-class people leading to dismal outcomes.”
Rally participants were joined by the lead sponsors of the bill, Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, both chairs of their chamber’s health committees.
“Every New Yorker should get the health care they need without facing financial obstacles or hardships to get it,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, Assembly sponsor of the New York Health Act. “The New York Health Act is the only plan that achieves that goal. I expect the Assembly will pass the bill again this session, an important step as we continue to build public support for universal health care in the face of the Trump agenda and growing obstacles to health care.”
"The New York Health Act is not only feasible, but the most fiscally responsible option for our State. I want to thank PNHP and all of the healthcare professionals gathered today for your efforts and your valuable partnership as we seek to create a healthcare system that truly delivers the best possible care to all New Yorkers regardless of wealth or immigration status," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "As Chairman of the Senate Health Committee, I am committed to continue to work with advocates and my colleagues in the legislature to make this proposal a reality."
The bill currently has 82 co-sponsors (a majority) in the Assembly and 29 in the Senate (just three short of a majority). The final state budget passed on Sunday excluded Governor Cuomo’s proposed study commission on universal health care, which the Health Act’s sponsors had characterized as unnecessary and a delaying tactic.
After the rally, participants fanned out through the Capitol and Legislative Office Building to hold meetings with legislators to thank bill co-sponsors for their support so far and urge others to sign-on as co-sponsors. They also met with leadership to urge them to move the bill forward with another floor vote in the Assembly this session, and joint public hearings around the state by the two houses to help the public better understand the bill and their opinions on it.
“Nurses are on the front line of patient care, well aware that healthcare access is not simply a matter of who is insured and who is not," said Marva Wade, RN, and New York State Nurses Association Board Member in support of the effort. "A crisis exists for many of our insured patients struggling to afford the co-pays, deductibles, out-of-network charges, and shifting Rx formularies. This results in wasted resources spent navigating this profit-driven system, not to mention limited health access and poor health outcomes. The New York Health Act is the cure for this broken healthcare system!"
“As future health care providers, we hope to pass the New York Health Act so that we can practice in a future where patients are able to access and afford the care we prescribe,” said Mahima Iyengar, second-year medical student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and co-president of Rochester’s chapter of Students for a National Health Program, speaking on behalf of the group’s 12 state chapters. “We cannot wait: we need a Medicare for all system to create a more anti-racist, pro-immigrant, feminist, anti-ableist system, and we cannot do this work alone. We call on our leaders in the NY State Assembly and Senate to pass the New York Health Act, so we can move one step closer to creating a more just and equitable health care system.”
“Under our current healthcare ‘system,’ patients cannot afford their medicines and wait for months to see specialists in their narrow networks, and providers click boxes for billing instead of treating patients,” said Dr. Betty Kolod, a resident in the Primary Care and Social Internal Medicine program at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. “We pay millions of dollars to private insurance companies for the service of having our claims denied. It is time to pass the New York Health Act and create a system that costs less by cutting overhead costs and negotiating for better drug prices while guaranteeing comprehensive coverage, including mental health and long-term care—the system that is already available in nearly every industrialized nation.”
Background materials on NY Health Act here.