Last week, New York became the first state to institute a tuition-free college plan since state schools nationwide ended the practice in the 1960s.
Now, a mere two signatures are all that’s required to cause New Yorkers to stand up again and shout, “I love New York!”– universal healthcare.
Since last month’s failed Republican attempt to repeal President Obama’s signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), governors and state lawmakers have taken to seriously entertaining the notion of universal healthcare at the state level.
The day after New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the state’s tuition-free college bill into law, record numbers of people showed up in Albany to a rally in support of the New York Health Act (A. 4738 / S. 4840), which would require the state to insure every resident not covered by Medicare or Medicaid, and eliminate for-profit health insurance companies.
Phil DeSalvo, a 29-year-old medical resident from New York City, trekked three hours to the state capital with three fellow health industry workers on his only day off to attend the rally. He said:
“We’re unanimous that this is the most logical system going forward…particularly with the collapse of the plan advanced by the Republicans.”
Minerva Solla is a 66-year-old organizer with the New York State Nurses Association. She said:
“I wanna make sure my children get healthcare. It’s a right, not a privilege. If they don’t pass it? Vote them out!”
Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) has been chair of the Assembly Health Committee since 1987, and is a nationally recognized policymaker in state health. He has sponsored a New York universal healthcare bill since 1992. About the new fervor since the demise of the GOP American Health Care Act (AHCA), he says:
“I think fear of the Republican bill, and fear that it will come back in even worse form, is sparking support.”
A 2015 analysis of single-payer health insurance in New York found the system would save $44.7 billion the first year of implementation. This is assuming the state can negotiate with drug companies.
Gottfried’s bill is expected to pass the lower New York state assembly, but could be stalled in the Republican-controlled senate.
If the bill makes it to the senate floor, Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) is the sole Democrat who could block a majority. Despite being a democrat, he frequently caucuses with Republicans.
“I do not have a position on the New York Health Act. This legislation would be a huge overhaul of the healthcare system in New York, and I would like to hear from experts and other senators on the committee.”
A staffer in Felder’s office said:
“Everybody’s calling about it.”
Universal healthcare, or “Medicare for all,” as it is sometimes called, has always resided along the political periphery, but talk of it has gained prominence since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made it a cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign.
Sanders plans to introduce a single-payer healthcare bill in the US Senate. In the House, there is already a single-payer bill (HR 676) sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) with 93 co-sponsors.
In the opening letter in an issue of the British medical journal the Lancet, Sanders wrote:
“The goal of a healthcare system should be to keep people well, not to make stockholders rich. The USA has the most expensive, bureaucratic, wasteful, and ineffective healthcare system in the world.”
Perhaps New York is paving the way for other states to enact similar progressive legislation that would improve their citizens’ standard of living. With all their talk of “states’ rights,” one would assume Republicans could get behind this. One thing is certain though: serious talk recently about taking away people’s health care has mobilized the nation in ways we have never seen.
Featured image from YouTube video.