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Editorial Review: Health care for all … if we can afford it, Riverdale Press

2019 IN REVIEW, December 29, 2019

What would New York be like if some Democrats get their way and pass the New York Health Act — the legislation that would create a general public single-payer health care system for the first time anywhere in the United States?

The Riverdale Press actually explored that in October, talking to a number of doctors, politicians, and even future doctors. Like Joseph Tharakan, who is working his way to earning his medical license at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Morris Park.

“In medical school, we never get any education on how health insurance works,” Tharakan said. “We learn all the science, but nothing about the money or insurance or malpractice or anything.”

But one of the biggest questions is how would New York pay for it? In fact, that’s one of the key factors that prevented the New York Health Act from coming up this past session, and will likely continue to curtail it until those issues are worked out.

“You want to do it right, and not sloppy,” said state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who campaigned as a proponent of the New York Health Act. “If we’re going to do this, we can’t fail. It would just provide ammunition to the arguments on why this program doesn’t work, so we have to do it right.”

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ALERT: Amherst Single Payer Public Forum, Jan 8, Anna DeRosa, Amhearst Bee

By Anna DeRosa, Dec 23, 2019

PUBLIC FORUM — Residents can gain more information about the New York Health Act next month at an event, titled “Amherst Single Payer Public Forum.” The event will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, at the Clearfield Library, 770 Hopkins Road.

The legislation is progressing through Albany, and a panel of experts will explain how public-funded, universal single-payer health insurance will impact every New York resident.

The panel of experts will include Kevin Ketchum, attorney; Brian Nowak, Town of Cheektowaga councilman; Joseph Testa, M.D., family medicine; Richard Clements, retired business executive; and Frances Ilozue, M.D., Rapha Family Medicine.

Attendees will be able to learn more about and understand the NY Health Act legislation, what it would change, whom it would benefit and how it would impact taxes. For more information, visit Campaign for NY Health at www.nyhcampaign.org, or search WNY Healthcare for All on Facebook.

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POV: The Constitutional Case for ‘Medicare for All,’ Buonaspina, CityLimits

The Constitutional Convention's identification of 'the general welfare' as an explicit goal of government was the foundation for postal roads, highways, Social Security and more.

By Robert Buonaspina, Dec 19, 2019

Robert Buonaspina is an Elected Steering Committee Member of Long Island Activists and a History Teacher at Locust Valley High School, Locust Valley, New York with over 25 years experience.

“Promoting the general welfare” is a part of our social DNA. It is featured in the United States Constitution in the Preamble and tasked to Congress to do in Article 1 Section 8. It is part of their job scope to ensure that the general welfare needs of our people are met.

Also noted in our foundational document, as part of servicing the general welfare needs of the people, was the creation of “postal roads,” along with post offices, as resources needed by Americans. The Founding Fathers also called for the creation of free public libraries to keep our citizens informed and educated.

In short order, developing out what was meant by “general welfare” grew as the nation grew. In the early 1800s, with the construction of the Erie Canal, the government funded in the Northeast a fairly involved effort to improve upon the transportation needs of the growing country.

Also occurring during the first few decades of the new nation was the formation of free public schools to educate our population. Via the efforts of Horace Mann, Massachusetts became the first state to provide a public education to its state’s citizens. In time, as part of serving the general welfare needs of the nation, a free public education from K-12 became the norm....

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NEWS: South Central Brooklyn United for Progress, a Bigger and Brighter 2020, Brodner, The Bklyner.

By Curtis Brodner, Dec 19, 2019      

New York Senate District 17 for Progress, a group of progressive activists and organizers in Borough Park and Midwood, are rebranding their organization as South Central Brooklyn United for Progress (SCBUP). With the new name comes hope for political change and a broader impact in 2020….

The organization has grown to roughly 40 regular members in addition to a 14-person executive board. Their newsletter reaches 700 Brooklynites. 

As membership grew, SCBUP formed committees to advocate for the changes that community members felt were most pressing. Those topics range from traffic safety to ICE raids to health care.

These areas of focus arise organically from members. Sarah Herbst, for example, is an SCBUP executive board member who works for a large health system, so she’s seen the issues with health insurance in the United Statesfirst hand. 

Herbst’s experience inspired her to help organize a committee at SCBUP that advocates for the New York Health Act, a bill that would provide universal, single-payer healthcare for New Yorkers. The bill has beenlanguishing in the New York State Legislature for decades, but SCBUP aims to change that.

“We recently hosted an event at a church in Park Slope where we spread the word about the NY Health Act and hopefully built momentum on how we can build support, get this passed and provide a national model for single-payer [health insurance],” said Herbst. “We can lead the way.”…

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VIDEO: NYS Could be close to adopting NYS health care act, Paul Feiner, LWV Zevon & Reich, WVOX

NYS could be close to doing at the state level what is being discussed at national level

Interview by Paul Feiner with Madeline Zevon and Joanne Reich, December 9, 2019

Mr. Feiner is Town of Greenburgh Supervisor, Ms. Zevon is co-chair of the NYS  & Westchester League of Women Voters Health Care Committee, and Ms. Reich is with the Greenburgh Health Care Committee and a member of the LWV committee

Most residents of NY, Westchester and Greenburgh  are unaware that NYS could be close to doing at the state level what lawmakers are talking about at the national level – the NYS Health Care Act covers everyone while saving money. I was surprised to learn that the State Assembly approved the legislation by a 2/3rd margin 4 times and in the State Senate there are 31 co-sponsors—only one vote short of a majority.  Will there be a vote in 2020? Will NYS lead the way? 

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NEWS: Sen. Metzger backs single-payer health care in NY, but unsure of passage, Daily Freeman

Dec 5, 2019

KINGSTON, N.Y. — State Sen. Jen Metzger says she favors a law allowing for single-payer health care in New York.

But the freshman lawmaker from Rosendale is not sure if the measure, known as the New York Health Act, will draw a favorable nod from a majority of Senate colleagues.

“You know, it always comes down to whether (we) turn out the votes,” Metzger, a Democrat, said during a live-stream Freeman interview Thursday. “Certainly there is strong support in the Senate, support that didn’t exist before but it has to have a majority of votes and we will see what happens.”

“I can’t really predict what would happen because it really comes down to the votes in the state senate and making sure we have a majority,” said Metzger, who represents the 42nd Senate District.

The New York state Legislature begins its next session in January.

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VIDEO: Public Hearing in Kingston Highlights Popular Support for Universal, Guaranteed Healthcare

Sharing personal struggles and expert testimony, dozens testified in support of the New York Health Act 

Kingston, NY— The fourth and final in a series of regional public hearings on the New York Health Act [A.5248, S.3577] convened in Kingston today. In a packed room, dozens of people testified to the Assembly and Senate Health Committees in support of the New York Health Act, including Hudson Valley residents, representatives from labor, healthcare and social service providers, small businesses, workers, patients, and care-workers. 

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INTERVIEW: “There’s a Fear Factor, a Fear of Change,” William Hsiao by Reynolds, Politico

William Hsiao knows more about single payer systems than pretty much any other American. What does he think about ‘Medicare for All’?

By Maura Reynolds, Nov 25, 2019

Plenty of Americans have opinions about single-payer health systems like “Medicare for All,” and some have even studied them closely. But vanishingly few individuals in the world have actually built one from scratch.

One who has is William Hsiao.

A health care economist now retired from Harvard University, Hsiao designed a national health care system for Taiwan in the 1990s, and helped manage that country’s transition from American-style employer-based insurance to a national single-payer system. He has also designed single-payer reform programs for Cyprus, Colombia and China. And not too long ago, after Vermont voted in 2011 to enact a statewide single-payer system, he worked on what would have been called Green Mountain Care, a project that eventually collapsed because of concerns over financing.

This all gives Hsiao a nearly unique vantage point on the current U.S. debate over Medicare for All. And while he’s a fan of single-payer health care, which he thinks leads both to better health and greater efficiency, he’s a pessimist about its chances to take root in the United States.

The reason? It’s not the economics. It’s the politics.

Given the public’s attachment to doctors and concerns about their own health, Hsiao says there’s a powerful “fear factor” associated with any major change — one easy for opponents to exploit, and hard to overcome. Fans of Medicare for All haven’t yet grappled with the heavy lift of educating the public enough to overcome people’s attachment to the status quo, and the powerful forces that can fan their anxieties....

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NEWS: Lawmakers mull over single payer health approach for New York, Mahoney, Niagra Gazette

By JOE MAHONEY, CNHI News Service, Nov 25, 2019

KINGSTON — Constance Rudd, a 77-year-old retiree, said it was getting Lyme disease this year from a tick bite that helped turn her into a staunch supporter of a single-payer approach to health insurance coverage.

"I found out I'm not as immortal as I thought I was," the Ulster County resident said Monday after demonstrating in support of legislation that would radically transform how medical care is financed in New York, with advocates calling for a state government takeover of the current approach of health insurers offering a menu of plans.

At a hearing on matching bills that have been filed in the state Assembly and Senate, a panel of lawmakers listened to former patients share stories of what they called aggravating experiences with health insurers. They also heard from representatives of the insurance industry who warned a single payer, government-run system would be unaffordable and would not deliver on the promises touted by the legislation….

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VIDEO: NYS Legislature to hold hearing on New York Health Act, Olivia Jaquith, WNEY News

By Olivia Jaquith, November 25, 2019

KINGSTON, N.Y. (WENY) -- The State Legislature is holding the latest in a series of hearings today on a replacement for traditional health insurance coverage.

The New York Health Act would take the place of current public health coverage programs, with single-payer health coverage, including long-term care, for all New Yorkers.

The program would be funded publicly, including existing federal support for Medicaid and Medicare.

According to the Assembly, New Yorkers would no longer have to pay premiums, deductibles, copays, out-of-network charges, or have limited provider networks….

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VIDEO: New York Health Act Rally, Kingston Daily Freeman

By Celia Watson Seupel, Nov 25, 2019

KINGSTON, N.Y. — Some 80 supporters of the New York Health Act gathered Monday morning outside the Ulster County Office Building, posters and other props in hand, prior to a state Legislature public hearing on the proposed single-payer plan.

The hearing, the last of four held across the state, drew a packed house in the county Legislature's chamber.

Opponents also were on hand at the rally, including one who parked a truck in front of the building that bore a painted message stating reasons to reject the plan: billions of dollars in new taxes, jobs at risk and hospital losses.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a sponsor of the legislation, called that message "misinformation." In fact, the Bronx Democrat said, a hospital in his district at which 70 percent of patients are on Medicaid would become more stable.

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LETTER: Passage of NY Health Act would benefit many in New York, Hess, Recordonline

By Star D. Hesse,  November 25, 2019, Narrowsburg

The current jumble of healthcare plans has left millions of people without adequate or affordable healthcare. Single payer plans like the New York Health Act offer comprehensive healthcare coverage, including hearing aids, dental, vision, prescriptions and more to all, regardless of age, income, existing medical conditions, employment or immigration status. There are no premiums, co-pays, deductibles, out-of-pocket or out of network expenses, and you choose your own medical providers. Program cost is based on a graduated income scale. People with $25,000 a year or less pay nothing at all.

This is how the Affordable Care Act was supposed to work before the for-profit insurance industry wrecked it. The NY Health Act is not an unaffordable pipe dream. Financial analysis by UMASS/Amherst Economics Dept. Chairman Gerald Friedman found that 98 percent of New Yorkers will pay much less for a lot better healthcare under NY Health. Even with the greatly expanded coverage, there is a net savings for New York of $45 billion a year.

The NY Health plan is a silver bullet cure for what ails our current healthcare system. With funding cutbacks and spiraling healthcare costs, when people can’t afford the healthcare they need, we cannot allow this vital legislation, that will benefit so many, to be blocked by a special interest few. There is no room for profiteering in healthcare. We must pass the NY Health Act now. It will save lives, it will save money, and it’s the right thing to do.

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VIDEO: Outraged NYers Picket NY Health Plan Asso re Deadly Denials & Racist Algorithm, NYHA Campaign

November 21, 2019, Albany, NY – Activists from a coalition of healthcare professionals, unions and grassroots groups picketed the annual conference of the New York Health Plan Association (NYHPA), a trade association for the state’s health insurance companies. 

One week ago, advocates were shocked when NYHPA canceled the paid registration for Stillwater resident Scott Desnoyers to attend the meeting. Scott recently wrote an OpEd about his son’s tragic death. After missing a premium payment of $20, FidelisCare canceled his plan, which prevented him from being able to afford life-saving anti-depression medication, after which he committed suicide. (FidelisCare had $60 billion in revenue in 2018.)  This morning, when Desnoyers attempted to enter the conference with his family and a letterdetailing this outrageous story to the industry leaders responsible, he was manhandled and summarily ejected from the building - for video, click here

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NEWS: Jackson Heights Assembly challenger to campaign on healthcare, immigrant rights, Parrott, QNS

By Max Parrott, Nov 20, 2019 in Queens

Reproductive health advocate Jessica González-Rojas, an insurgent candidate the Assembly seat in District 34, officially launched her campaign to a crammed bar of supporters on Monday, Nov. 18.

González-Rojas, who has served as National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health executive director since 2006, detailed her platform of healthcare, racial justice and immigration reform.

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NEWS: Final public hearing on NYHA to be held Monday in Kingston, Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman

By Paul Kirby, Nov 19, 2019

KINGSTON, N.Y. — The final public hearing on the state Legislature's move toward creating a single-payer health care system in New York will be held Monday at the Ulster County Office Building in Kingston.

The hearing, being held by the health committees of the state Assembly and Senate, is scheduled for 10 a.m. on the sixth floor of the County Office Building, 244 Fair St. It will be preceded, at 9 a.m., by a rally and press conference outside the building, put on by supporters of the New York Health Act.

“Hudson Valley residents will be joining health care providers, nurses, labor leaders and members, patients, businesses and care givers to rally before the public hearing," a press release about the event states….

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LETTER: NYS needs quality long-term health care coverage, Keith Gurgui, Kingston Daily Freeman

By Keith Gurgui,  Nov 15, 2019, Town of Ulster

I’m a 28-year-old lifetime resident of the town of Ulster. For nearly 10 years, I have been living at home with the help of 24-hour personal care, after a spinal cord injury in late 2009 left me a quadriplegic.

The state of New York, like the rest of the United States, is at a crossroads of a growing home care crisis. Medical advancements and a growing understanding of human health have us living longer and surviving injuries that once were death sentences. Over time, this has created an inevitable increase in the need for quality, community-based long-term care.

New York could be the first state to not only create a universal health care system, but one that covers comprehensive long-term care coverage — one of the most critical, yet overlooked, components of a stable health care infrastructure.

Opponents of universal coverage who argue it is unaffordable fail to consider the heavy cost society already pays through the lack of coverage that leaves individuals sick, unemployed and in need of support. We all desire to live out our days at home, as independently as possible, with dignity. But the systems necessary to adequately fulfill that desire are woefully ill-equipped to satisfy such a demand.

Join me and the Caring Majority campaign at 10 a.m. Nov. 25 at the Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair St., Kingston, where state legislators will be holding their second public hearing on the latest iteration of the New York Health Act, and help us make history.

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LETTER: Wanted: Real health care for all, Dr. Leonard Rodberg, NY Daily News

By Dr. Leonard Rodberg, Nov 15, 2019

Dr. Rodberg is the research director, NY Metro Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program 

A universal, state-funded health care plan would benefit every New Yorker. Surely the residents of the richest state in the richest nation on Earth can afford the right to health care that residents of every other advanced country already enjoy. As a board member of the Campaign for New York Health, I know that many studies conducted by us and others have shown that the taxes to fund New York Health Act would, in fact, be substantially less than what private insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles now cost us, and they would be fairer, based on ability to pay. We should demand that our Legislature take this opportunity to do something wonderful for the residents of this state and make universal, comprehensive, affordable health care available to all of us. 

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NEWS: Regardless of Who Becomes President, ‘Medicare for All’ May Happen in NY, Bill’s Sponsors Say

By Zachary Folk, Nov 5, 2019 at 8:54 pm by West Sider

New York state politicians have been discussing a Medicare for All-type health insurance system for nearly 30 years. But never before has the New York Health Act seemed so achievable as it does today, politicians said at a forum on Monday.

State Senator Robert Jackson, who represents parts of the Upper West Side, along with Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill, hosted a town hall at the West End Collegiate Church on 77th Street on Monday to discuss the proposed bill with the community. Jackson was joined by Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Linda Rosenthal, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, and Carlyn Cowen, chief policy and public affairs officer for the Chinese-American Planning Council. Assemblyman Gottfried and Senator Rivera both chair the health committees in their respective chambers of the legislature. They were joined by several community members and healthcare professionals who testified on the urgent need for universal healthcare.

NYHA would provide all 20 million New Yorkers with the same services currently provided by Medicare, but without copays and deductibles. “It would cover all 20 million of us regardless of age, or income, or immigration status, or anything else,” Gottfried said. In addition to covering primary care, it would also cover things like prescription fees, dental, and long-term care – going far beyond what most plans on the healthcare marketplace offer. NYHA would also eliminate restricted provider networks, allowing patients to choose which doctor they want to see without having to worry about out-of-network charges….

A livestream of the town hall can be found at Senator Jackson’s Twitter feed (@SenatorRJackson). If you have any questions about NYHA, the senator will be hosting another town hall on November 12, at the Y.M. & Y.W.H.A. at 54 Nagle Ave.

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NEWS: Electeds Make the Case for Single-Payer Healthcare for New York, Engel, NY County Politics

By William Engel, Nov 5, 2019

Rachel Madley, 24, had just entered high school when her doctor diagnosed her with Type 1 diabetes. From that point on, her life became a living nightmare. Her parents had to go into debt to afford her treatment. More egregiously, she constantly had to fight with her insurance company to get the medicine she needed.

She recalled one particular incident in college when she risked going a weekend without insulin – which, as a diabetic, is life-threatening.

“I started the process a few weeks before so I could be sure that I would get insulin,” recalled Madley. “My insurance company either denied it multiple times or tried to charge me the full price for it. I went to the pharmacy to try and get a refill, and it was not going through with my insurance, or it was showing up with a $400 out-of-pocket cost. So I called my insurance company, and they were closed for a three-day weekend. I panicked; I didn’t know what to do. But luckily, my pharmacist saw how stressed I was, and she actually gave me the insulin at no charge until we could figure things out.

What the experience taught me is that insurance companies value profit over my life, and over everyone’s life” ….

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ALERT: Local Politicians Want Single-Payer Healthcare System for NY State; Forum Monday

While Democrats running for president debate whether to enact Medicare for All, state-level politicians are working to rally support for a bill that would create a single-payer system in New York state.

The New York Health Act would transform health care in the state, so that it would be paid for by government sources, including state and federal tax dollars and new payroll taxes. It would eliminate premiums, deductibles, co-pays and out-of-network charges.

On Monday, State Senator Robert Jackson will hold a forum on the act with the bill’s sponsors, Assemblymember Dick Gottfried and State Senator Gustavo Rivera, as well as Assembly member Linda Rosenthal and Carlyn Cowen from the Chinese-American Planning Council.

It starts at 6 p.m. Monday at the West End Collegiate Church, 245 W. 77th St. between Broadway and West End Avenue. You can RSVP on Eventbrite here.

There’s more info on the act here, and the payment breakdown is below.

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NEWS: No excuse for Bronx to be at bottom of health rankings, Heather J. Smith, Riverdale Press

By HEATHER J. SMITH, Dec 22, 2019

Another year, the same problem.

That’s why Barbara Estrin and many others braved the early December cold to rally on city hall’s steps on Dec. 3. It was the second time members of Not 62: The Campaign for a Healthy Bronx, have spoken out for better health care in the borough.

Members like Estrin weren’t asking for anything outlandish or unrealistic from the city. Instead, they asked that the Bronx have what the other four boroughs have — equitable health care.

Each year, the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranks the country’s more than 3,000 counties based on how healthy their populations are. It studies how factors like length and quality of life, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment have profound effects depending on geography.

Bronx County — as it has since the study began in 2010 — ranked dead last out of New York’s 62 counties….

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LETTER: When insurance runs out on us, Farris Thomas Jr, Riverdale Press

By Farris Thomas JrDec 8, 2019

Mr. Sweeney, you’re right: “Whoever pays the piper calls the tune.” Today, for-profit health insurance “calls the tune,” dictating to doctors, undermining American health care.

Recently, Medical Economics described physicians “in a tug-of-war between what is right for their patients” and corporate-run insurance: “I or my staff members spend the majority of our weeks on the phone and doing paperwork (often denied, and re-sent, having to do again) on our patients’ behalf.”

It’s not “baloney.”

For-profit insurance devours half the doctor’s week. The advocates you decry want our medical practitioners — internists, dentists, ENTs, therapists, etc. — to give (and get) evidence-based health care without interfering middlemen stealing time, increasing costs, and harming our health.

Someday, you’ll be eligible for Medicare. Will you refuse it because it socializes risk of medical catastrophe? Will you refuse firefighters — socialized risk of our home burning? Do you refuse police assistance — socialized risk against crime?

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NEWS: Health care takes center stage at marathon hearing, Fiifi Frimpong, Riverdale Press

By FIIFI FRIMPONG, Nov 2, 2019

They filled the sidewalk in front of the Bronx Library Center in Fordham last week, carrying signs and chanting their displeasure with the current health coverage system in the state.

“What do we want? Health care! When do we want it? Now!”

That was the scene outside of the latest hearing on the proposed New York Health Act led by state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, taking place in a borough that is known as New York’s unhealthiest.

The megaphone-enhanced chants could be heard from East Kingsbridge Road to inside the library, where Rivera and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried were set to host the 10-hour hearing.

“I have been working on this bill for 27 years,” Gottfriend said. “Except for people whose job it is to defend the current system, nobody has ever told me that they love their health coverage, or they love their deductibles, or co-pays and their restricted provider networks.”

That bill, the New York Health Act, shares similarities with Medicare and Canada’s current health care system. But lawmakers and advocates pushing this single-payer option through says what they’ve put together is better....

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Editorial: State health plan faces political test, Middletown Record Online

October 31, 2019 

The big news concerning the state of health care in New York this week came from The Wall Street Journal which reported that “New Yorkers are waiting hours and lining up down the street to tell state legislators the same refrain: fix health care.” The crowds are showing up to testify as legislators seek information about “the New York Health Act, which would establish universal, guaranteed health care across the state with a single-payer plan.” as the Journal reported.

Where do legislators get the idea that this is a state concern and should not be left to private enterprise or the federal government? From the state Constitution, that’s where.

As the bill’s sponsors point out, the Constitution holds that “The protection and promotion of the health of the inhabitants of the state are matters of public concern and provision therefor shall be made by the state and by such of its subdivisions and in such manner, and by such means as the legislature shall from time to time determine.”

The plan being considered at these legislative hearings around the state starts by assuming that federal and state funds now used to provide health care would be available to the new program, a logical approach but one that might have to overcome the kinds of political objections that have greeted Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and any other attempt to provide a broad-based system similar to the ones offered in every other developed nation, places where health outcomes are better than ours as is access to all sorts of health care and patient satisfaction. After all, the only category in which the United States leads the world when it comes to health care is cost....

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Editorial: State health plan faces political test, Middletown Record Online

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Editorial: State health plan faces political test, Middletown Record Online

October 31, 2019 

The big news concerning the state of health care in New York this week came from The Wall Street Journal which reported that “New Yorkers are waiting hours and lining up down the street to tell state legislators the same refrain: fix health care.” The crowds are showing up to testify as legislators seek information about “the New York Health Act, which would establish universal, guaranteed health care across the state with a single-payer plan.” as the Journal reported.

Where do legislators get the idea that this is a state concern and should not be left to private enterprise or the federal government? From the state Constitution, that’s where.

As the bill’s sponsors point out, the Constitution holds that “The protection and promotion of the health of the inhabitants of the state are matters of public concern and provision therefor shall be made by the state and by such of its subdivisions and in such manner, and by such means as the legislature shall from time to time determine.”

The plan being considered at these legislative hearings around the state starts by assuming that federal and state funds now used to provide health care would be available to the new program, a logical approach but one that might have to overcome the kinds of political objections that have greeted Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and any other attempt to provide a broad-based system similar to the ones offered in every other developed nation, places where health outcomes are better than ours as is access to all sorts of health care and patient satisfaction. After all, the only category in which the United States leads the world when it comes to health care is cost....

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NEWS: Hearings on Single-Payer Health-Care Plans Draw Crowds Around New York, West & Vielkind, WSJ

Advocates hope that the number of personal and painful stories shared during the hearings will build momentum to pass the legislation

By Melanie Grayce West and Jimmy Vielkind, Oct. 28, 2019 

New Yorkers are waiting hours and lining up down the street to tell state legislators the same refrain: fix health care.

Workers, physicians, nurses, parents, business owners, the elderly and the infirm have been testifying at hearings around the state about the New York Health Act, which would establish universal, guaranteed health care across the state with a single-payer plan. During the most recent forum, at a public library in the Bronx last week, people filled a 150-seat auditorium to hear testimony that ultimately ended when the library closed for the day.

Allison Marotta, a 25-year-old New Yorker with Type 1 diabetes, said that in a few weeks she will no longer be carried under her parents’ insurance. She isn’t eligible for Medicaid and said she can’t afford a state-sponsored program. Her monthly care costs will exceed $2,000 a month without insurance for insulin alone, with supplies and doctor’s appointments quadrupling that number, she said.

“I will not be able to afford this,” Ms. Marotta said through tears. “After my 26th birthday I will no longer have access to my team of medical doctors and I will begin to ration insulin and medical supplies.”

Advocates hope that the onslaught of personal and painful stories shared during the hearings—three have happened so far and at least one more is expected—will build momentum to pass the legislation. They say the plan would provide New Yorkers with complete health coverage without deductibles, copays or out-of-network charges.

Versions of the Health Act have previously been taken up and passed by the Assembly, which has long been dominated by Democrats, but there was no vote on the bill during this year’s session—the first in a decade during which Democrats also controlled the state Senate.

During a press conference before the Bronx hearing, state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, chair of the senate’s health committee, said this year will be different. The Health Act, he said, will be a “central part” of the conversation of the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.

“We know that health care is something that we all struggle with,” he said. “And now we are saying that we have a solution to deal with that in the state of New York.”

Still, there are political roadblocks at the Capitol in Albany. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat from Yonkers, hasn’t embraced the bill, as she attempts to balance the needs of moderate Democratic senators from suburban areas—whose electoral victories helped propel the party into the majority—with those of more liberal members who support the bill.

In a statement, Ms. Stewart-Cousins committed to discussing the bill, and said “Improving our broken health-care system is a Senate Democratic priority and a major concern.” A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, said he would discuss the issue with his members.

State Sen. Patrick Gallivan, a Republican and ranking member of the Senate’s Health Committee, has called the Health Act highly impractical. “No taxpayer-funded program can afford unlimited and unrestricted health care,” Mr. Gallivan said earlier this month.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he wants to expand access to health insurance, but has thrown cold water on the Health Act. The governor has questioned whether a single-payer system could exist on a state scale as opposed to a national one, and said he doesn’t believe the federal government would give the necessary Medicaid waivers to implement such a bill.

Leanne Politi, a spokeswoman for the Realities of Single Payer, a coalition of health insurance and business groups that supports universal coverage but not a single-payer system, said the testimony and questions raised at the public hearings has only reinforced members’ opposition to a statewide, government-run single-payer system. Many people currently uninsured are eligible for low or no-cost health coverage right now.

“State lawmakers should explore other ways to get the remaining individuals covered as well as addressing issues which will lower the costs of care making coverage more affordable,” said Ms. Politi. “Let’s fix what is broken instead of throwing out the entire system.”

Bronx resident Helene Reed explained to lawmakers at last week’s hearing how two children she cares for lost health insurance, despite qualifying for a state program.

Andrew P. Raia, a Republican assembly member from Long Island, said the problems they are encountering are with the current Medicaid system.

“Reach out to your state legislators, let them be your advocate,” Mr. Raia said.

“And then what happens?” asked Ms. Reed. “Tell me, what can they do to help me?”

“I would reach out to your state representatives,” said Mr. Raia, “and see if they can help you cut through the red tape.”

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LETTER: Vermont, N.Y. reform different, Walter Carpenter, Riverdale Press

By Walter Carpenter, Oct 27, 2019

As a Vermont health care activist, I enjoy seeing The Riverdale Presspop up on my alerts: Both for the frequency of your supportive coverage, and your insightful local contributors.

When I saw your editorial, I needed to respond, despite not being a Bronx resident. “The previous attempt — in Vermont — was a disaster” needs correction, and I hope this is OK with the editors.

Please allow me to offer some history as I was in the thick of that fierce battle.

No single-payer plan ever materialized. When Vermont passed its historic Act 48 mandating that health care should be a public good for all Vermonters, we were proud of our state legislature, taking the initiative to lead a health care revolution in America....

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POV: What Would Medicare for All Cost You? Lisa Rowan, Life Hacker

By Lisa Rowan, Oct 16, 2019

Democratic candidates for president want to overhaul health care. But who will pay for it? That was the question during last night’s fourth primary debate, which featured 12 candidates on one stage vying for attention. But the discussion around health care may have resulted in more questions than answers. A lot of the details are murky, but right now, it looks like government-sponsored health care wouldn’t dramatically increase your out-of-pocket costs—it would actually lower what you pay for care.

A portion of the night focused on Medicare for All, the general idea that the government should run the United States health care system. There are several ideas for doing it, but the overall goal is that everyone would get some level of insurance for free....

A 2018 Vox analysisof data from the New York Health Act found that new taxes levied to pay for health care would probably replace the same amount of money spent on health care premiums, whether that cost is covered by you or your employer....

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Interview: No More Compromise on Abortion, Featherstone, Jacobin

Interview by Liza Featherstone with Jenny Brown, Oct 18, 2019

Jenny Brown’s new book Without Apology: The Abortion Struggle Now, the latest in the Jacobin Seriespublished by Verso, draws on decadesof history and organizing experience to explain how we can win this fight over women’s reproductive labor.

Brown, also author of Birth Strike(PM Press, 2019), has organized with National Women’s Liberation, Gainesville Women’s Liberation and Redstockings. She spoke with Jacobin’s Liza Featherstone at New York’s Strand Bookstore on October 10. A Kickstarter to raise funds for the launch of Without Apology can be found here....

So, National Women’s Liberation has its roots in Redstockings, in those sixties radical movements, and we are trying to continue that tradition. We teach classes, we put out books, we put out information, but we’re also organizers. We’re hoping to create a study and action guide to go with this book.

It’s now easy to do a self-managed abortion, with pills. There are all kinds of regulations and restrictions around it. These are completely unnecessary. And why is it only doctors in most states who can provide abortions? This is a choke point that has been used against us — and Lucinda Cisler predicted that it would be. Some states have made it possible for other practitioners to provide abortions. They have just as good outcomes. It’s fine. So we need to make it so that anybody who’s a trained practitioner can provide an abortion. We need to not just try to keep these abortion bans from coming down the pike, but really expand our rights.

We also have done a lot of organizing around national health insurance. For example, the New York Health Act, which is basically statewide single payer. Everybody would be covered, and it includes abortion. Rather than this continual forty-year fight to get rid of the Hyde Amendment, which would still mean that you’d have to be on Medicaid to get your abortion funded — that leaves a whole lot of people out. What we really need is expanded, improved Medicare for all that coversabortion and birth control. We think that is the way to go. In fact, Redstockings pioneered this. In 1989 they changed their call for “free abortion on demand” to “free abortion on demand through a national health system.” We really need to win national health care....

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