By Casey Seiler
Albany Times-Union, March 8, 2013
ALBANY — Enacting a massive state takeover of the cost of health care for every New Yorker might seem like a heavy lift even in a deep-blue state like New York.
But that didn’t stop Assemblyman Richard Gottfried from rolling out the latest version of his perennial bill establishing a statewide single-payer health care system, a structure often shorthanded by advocates as “Medicare for all.”
Backed by nurses, physicians, anti-poverty activist Mark Dunlea and a clutch of his fellow Democratic lawmakers, Gottfried discussed the bill at a Thursday news conference.
The Manhattan Democrat’s legislation has 73 co-sponsors in his chamber — though Speaker Sheldon Silver is not among them — and about a dozen in the Senate, where the measure is carried by Bill Perkins, D-Harlem.
Even though the nation is only beginning to implement the federal Affordable Health Care Act, Gottfried said the Empire State shouldn’t have to wait years before seeing where it falls short. “Federal health care reform has done a lot of good, but it still leaves us in the hands of insurance companies,” Gottfried said. “New York can do better.”
The New York Health Act would replace all private insurance coverage with comprehensive, universal coverage for every New Yorker, he said.
“It would save the billions of dollars that we now spend on insurance company administrative costs. … You and your doctor would work to keep you healthy. New York Health would pay the bill with funding from broad-based revenue based on ability to pay,” Gottfried said.
The two sources of revenue: a progressive payroll tax paid for primarily by employers with contributions by workers, and a surcharge on investment income. It would also require the demise of the health insurance industry in New York — a development business groups view as only slightly preferable to the end of the world.
The bill’s only appearance on the floor of the Assembly was in 1992, when it passed before being promptly ignored by the Republican-controlled state Senate.
“In the intervening years, as Gilda Radner said, ‘It’s always something,'” Gottfried joked, referring to the late “Saturday Night Live” player.
“People who would have been focused on single-payer for a couple of years were focused on the Clinton health plan,” he continued. “Then here in New York people were focused on managed-care reforms and, for many years, fighting against drastic cuts in Medicaid that were on the table. And then for the last several years people were focused on getting health care reform enacted in Washington. … I think we are really ready to refocus on single-payer.”
Perkins struck a realistic tone about the bill’s chances, as well as its ultimate value.
“Listen, let’s be for real: There are a lot of monied interests that are involved in this,” Perkins said. “The privatized model is about profit; it’s about paying for policies that do not necessarily speak to the best interests of the community, to the best interests of people. And therefore, to some extent it measures how valuable this is — because there’s so much effort over the years to prevent (the bill) from even getting to daylight.”