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.