From Howie Hawkins:
Single-payer healthcare for New York State was one of the key reforms for which we campaigned in the race for Governor.
Although the media’s campaign narrative and the other candidates ignored healthcare, the Gottfried/Perkins bill for a single-payer New York Health program is co-sponsored by close to one-half of the Assembly and one-third of the Senate. The Green Party of New York is one of over 100 organizations statewide supporting the campaign for New York Health.
We can move this issue this year, closer to guaranteeing health care as a human right. The next step is public hearings hosted by the bill’s sponsors in cites around the state in December, beginning in Syracuse this Thursday. I urge you to attend and give testimony. They especially want to hear from people who have had problems affording and getting proper and timely treatment from the existing healthcare system and from businesses that find providing healthcare benefits difficult and too costly.
The New York Health bill would immediately provide every New York resident with all medically necessary services except for long-term care, which will be studied by the program with the goal of adding long-term care within five years.
New York Health would be paid for by progressive taxes based on ability to pay. It would be free to patients at the point of delivery when they visit their healthcare provider. No premiums, co-pays, or deductibles, just healthcare.
A study authorized by the New York legislature in 2009 found that by 2019, a single-payer system would save New Yorkers $28 billion a year compared to the mix of public (Medicare, Medicaid, Child Health Plus) and mandated private insurance that we now have.
In the meantime, nearly 2 million New Yorkers are uninsured and many millions more are reluctant to use medical services because they cannot afford the high deductibles and co-pays of the insurance they do have or the insurance doesn’t cover services like dental and optical. Yet Governor Cuomo refused to permit a free clinic in New York City on the day after Thanksgiving offered by 500 dentists and 2,500 other volunteers for 7,000 patients who needed dental and optical services. Remote Area Medical, which has provided over 700 free clinics for hundreds of thousands of patients, was told by Governor Cuomo, who had complete discretion to permit the clinic, that “New Yorkers have all the health care they need.”
The healthcare crisis really struck me during the campaign when I made fundraising calls. I had many supporters tell me they wanted to contribute but couldn’t because they were broke due to medical bills. Someone in the family had gotten sick and their health insurance was inadequate.
From the business side, I had the frustrating experience last year of trying to find a decent health benefits package for the employees of a small business we were developing, a food co-op in our USDA-certified “food dessert” on the South Side of Syracuse. The insurance agent showed us page after page of possible plans. We finally gave the employees a choice between the best low premium/high deductible plan and the best high premium/low deductible plan available. In the end, none of the employees opted in. I don’t blame them. Both options were too expensive for too little coverage.
Personally, I have had top-of-the-line insurance through the Teamsters contract with UPS. But even with our huge volume discounts, we have had co-pays added to the $8.53 per hour of work that the company pays due the inexorable rise in health care costs. And under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), in 2018 the federal government will impose a “cadillac tax” on our health benefits of 40% on payments to the insurance company above $10,200 for an individual. An individual’s pay and benefit package contributing $8.53 an hour for a full-time job pays $17,742.40 a year for health insurance. The 40% “cadillac tax” will require the company to pay over $3,000 a year to provide that coverage. When the Teamster’s current contract with UPS expires in 2018, no doubt the company will demand major cuts in healthcare benefits to pay for the “cadillac tax.”
I qualify for Medicare in three years, but with premiums rising and plans for more privatization circulating in Congress, I don’t feel I can count on Medicare for affordable health care either. None of us but the super-rich can count on being able to afford the medical services we need.
Even with the good health insurance I have, the medical system is not as responsive as it would be under a single-payer system. I developed an inguinal hernia earlier this year, a common hernia for men, especially those engaged in physical labor as I am. Living in inner city Syracuse, my primary care and access to specialists is through the Community Health Center system, which is underfunded. A surgeon visits the clinic once a month. My timing was such that I had to worked a full month as my hernia worsened before I saw the surgeon. That got me on disability insurance at half pay while I waited two more months for the surgery to be performed. With a month for recovery, I had to endure half-pay for three months. Under single payer, the healthcare planning and budgeting process will enable an equitable allocation of resources among public providers like Community Health Clinics and private hospitals and clinics.
Health care should be a human right, paid for by a single-payer public insurance program, at cost for public benefit, not for private profit. Health care should not be a buy or die commodity. Get on our Single Payer Conference Call on Thursday evening to learn more about the campaign for New York Health.
And please attend and testify at a hearing near you. It’s the first step pushing for a vote in the legislature on the New York Health bill. If they don’t adopt it, we want them on the record so we can hold them accountable in the 2016 legislative elections.