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LETTER: Another reason to pass health act, Thomas Farris, Jr, Riverdale Press

Under the headline “Insurers game Medicare system to boost federal bonus payments,” The Wall Street Journal reported on March 11 a practice called “cross-walking,” where insurance companies routinely shift millions of seniors in lower-rated Medicare Advantage plans to higher-rated plans so that the insurance companies might benefit from subsidies that the federal governments pays to higher-rated plans.

Sounds good, but the seniors are led to believe they will get higher value. In fact, they pay more and gain nothing in care — while insurance companies get more of our tax money to augment already record-breaking profits.

Apparently all the major insurance players participate in this “cross-walking” charade. The Wall Street Journal gave particular attention to Humana. When Humana got caught “cross-walking” seniors from Medicare plans that pay Humana less to those that give seniors less and pay Humana more, share prices plunged 5 percent — $1.4 billion drop in market capitalization. 

But share prices recovered completely upon news of increased enrollment in more profitable plans — that is, “cross-walking” 1.27 million seniors. 

Staggering numbers from the actuarial cons gaming the system.

Read the full letter here.

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LETTER: For-profit insurance bad for our health, Susan P. Gateley, Auburn Citizen

It’s time to move forward on universal health care. Our profit-centered American health care system is a mockery of capitalism in action. Competition is basic to true capitalism. You can’t have competition without choices. And when you’re in cardiac arrest or bleeding on the street your choices are pretty limited.

You also need transparency for competition. Neither the care providers nor the insurance industry are noteworthy for that. Try checking on your surgeon or hospital for mortality statistics on a given procedure. Sadly there are some insurance companies out there who prey upon the naive who fail to read the very fine print of their policy. I once purchased a "cheap" policy, and then sliced my thumb and had to go to a surgeon to repair the tendon. The insurance covered 20 percent of his bill. I made payments for six months. And as soon as I could afford it signed up with a "real" insurance company. Since the GOP “overhaul" of the ACA we once again see ads for "cheap" insurance everywhere.

Read the full letter here.
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LETTER: Demand single payer from state Senate, Tim Wolcott, Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin

The Affordable Care Act was an improvement in a totally broken national health care system.

Among other benefits, it increased access for millions through the expanded Medicaid program. It prevented the denial of coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions. However, it was a bandage, not a cure. We need a real solution. We need universal health care now.

Almost 30 million Americans still have no health care coverage. Many millions more live with the risk of bankruptcy due to deductibles, co-insurance requirements and copayments. Thousands of American businesses who admirably help pay for employee health coverage are made uncompetitive relative to their overseas counterparts. Many thousands of churches, school districts and county governments struggle to maintain employee health coverage and balance their budgets as their premiums increase unpredictably and far exceed the cost of living.

Read the full letter here.

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ARTICLE: Talking health-care at Landmark on Main St., The Island Now

Professors Martha Livingston and Len Rodberg led a lively discussion during the Landmark’s Conversations From Main Street event on March 20 regarding the New York Health Act.

The League of Women Voters of Port Washington-Manhasset event screened the short film “Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point,” before discussing the details and implications of the bill.

“The non-partisan League of Women Voters has been a proud advocate of legislation that serves the public good since its founding six months before American women got the right to vote- as a natural extension of that movement,” explained Dr. Judith Esterquest, chair of the LWVPW-M Healthcare Committee.

“In that proud tradition, the League has supported universal healthcare, what is now termed ‘single-payer,’ for a quarter century.”  Dr. Esterquest continued, “Following equally exacting examination and analysis, the NYS League advocates for NY Health (Gottfried A4738/ Rivera S4840) and has endorsed the Campaign for NY Health, which will bring universal, comprehensive, more cost-effective healthcare to all New Yorkers.”

Read the full article here.

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LETTER: Democratic push should include state Senate, Sunny Aslam, MD, Albany Times-Union

Many Democrats are running for Congress this year, battling each other in expensive primaries. Meanwhile, Republicans like Reps. Faso and Stefanik are piling up cash at fundraisers. Faso and Stefanik have no less than seven Democrats in each of their districts vying to face them in November.

Sure it's easy to want to focus on Congress, but why no emphasis on the thousands of local seats lost by Democrats over the past 10 years? Democrats may be missing a chance to build their bench and invest in the future by winning back some of these seats.

The New York state Senate holds promise for Democrats, with a chance to take the majority and pass progressive reforms. Universal healthcare in the form of the New York Health Act (NYHA) has passed the Assembly for years and is nearing majority support in the Senate.

Read the rest of the letter here.

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Opinión: El proyecto de Ley de salud de Nueva York busca darles seguro médico a todos

¿Te ha pasado alguna vez que no fuiste al médico por no poder pagarlo?  A mí sí me ha pasado, y el resultado fue que anduve con un cáncer avanzado que solo fue descubierto en cuanto conseguí seguro médico en un trabajo nuevo. Gracias al seguro, pude tratar el cáncer con cirugía, quimioterapia y radiación, con poco costo para mí. Pero sin éste empleo y su seguro, no sé qué hubiera sucedido. Lo que sí sé es que esto no debería pasarle a nadie en éste país. Leer el artículo completo aquí.

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OP-ED: Pass N.Y. Health Act to ease budget problems, Howie Hawkins, Poughkeepsie Journal

Two years ago, Bernie Sanders introduced a "Medicare for All" bill that would move the U.S. toward a single-payer healthcare system. He didn't get a single co-sponsor. Wednesday, the Vermont independent will introduce his latest version of the bill.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last September that a state single-payer public health plan would be a “good idea.” But he said nothing about it in his state of the state and budget messages.A state “Medicare for All” system would save $2.7 billion to insure state employees, which would take a big bite out of the $4.4 billion deficit the state faces.
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LETTER: Single-payer health care provides opportunities, George Jolly, MD, Albany Times-Union

Regarding the letter from Heather Briccetti, president and CEO, Business Council of New York State, "Single-payer system would be utter disaster," Feb. 7), I thank Briccetti for bringing the discussion of single-payer health care finance into the public eye with her response to Howie Hawkins' commentary (Opinion on the Web: "Single-payer would save N.Y. billions," Jan. 30). However, Briccetti's response includes serious errors.

Briccetti writes that the "plan would remove choice in health care." This is false. With a single-payer system, the patient has free choice of doctor, hospital or other provider. Insurance companies, for which there will no longer be choice, do not provide health care.

Briccetti writes the proposal would "raise taxes by more than $200 billion." This also is false. Assessments on earned and unearned income will amount to $92 billion. The largest financing will come from Medicare and Medicaid. Payroll assessments replace today's health insurance premiums. There will be no additional out-of-pocket expenses (co-pays or deductibles). In fact, 98 percent of New Yorkers will pay less for health care than they do now.

Read the rest of the letter at the Times-Union here.

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Catherine Wolf, 70, forged IBM breakthroughs and fought ALS, The Journal News/lohud

Joel and Catherine Wolf’s story seems to underscore the contradictions of American medicine.

The Katonah couple worked as a top IBM research team that improved how humans interact with computers, and Catherine Wolf died this month after an extraordinary 22-year battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Joel Wolf described his wife’s fight with the rare neurological disease as unique. It gained notoriety because she lost the ability to speak and used her eyebrow to control a computer and communicate. 

The high-tech breakthrough, however, is only part of what made her situation different.

Catherine Wolf’s lengthy struggle with the costly illness led to her advocacy for creating a single-payer or ‘Medicare-for-All’ system in New York and across the country, Joel Wolf said. She died Feb. 7, at the age of 70.

Read the full article at The Journal News here.

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LETTER: Health insurance model is wrong, Helen Meltzer-Krim, Riverdale Press

For-profit health care is unsustainable. Soaring costs and the number of medical bankruptcies make that seem obvious.

The drag on small businesses, the most important drivers of our economy, is counterproductive. As the number of health insurance companies goes up competing for profit, the cost of insurance is supposed to go down.

But with 15 percent of insurance company expenses going to advertising, and record profits going to shareholders and CEO salaries, costs are not going down.

Read the full letter at the Riverdale Press here.

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LETTER: No 'wasteful treatment', Bart Schiavo, Riverdale Press

On the same day CNN reported about a California lawsuit against Aetna for denial and delay of a life-saving procedure, President Trump proposed cutting Medicare 7.1 percent ($500 billion through 2028), and Medicaid by 22 percent ($680 billion). Both Aetna and Trump defend their decisions by decrying “wasteful treatment.”

The lawsuit against Aetna is by a college student with a rare immune disorder. The California insurance commissioner, now involved, was appalled when he read a pre-trial deposition — specifically that “during the entire time he was employed at Aetna as its medical director in charge of appeals, the doctor ‘never once looked at patients’ medical records,’ testifying under oath that he relied on nurses’ recommendations, which he followed.”

Read the full letter at the Riverdale Press here.

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OP-ED: The New York Health Act Faces Challenges in Albany, Madeline Zevon, White Plains Examiner

n the last legislative session, the New York Health Act, a single-payer bill that would bring universal, comprehensive, cost-effective healthcare to every New Yorker, passed the NY State Assembly 94 to 46 and had 31 co-sponsors in the New York State Senate — just one vote shy of a majority.

New York Health has had far too little public conversation. Our current multi- payer healthcare system is financially unsustainable, and leaves millions of New Yorkers uninsured and under-insured. NY Health would cover every New Yorker with comprehensive benefits, and a recent economic study by Gerald Friedman of the University of Massachusetts concluded that NYHA would save us $45 billion per year over what we pay now. How is that possible?

Read the full article at the White Plains Examiner here.

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Collins announces candidacy for State Senate 46th district seat, The Recorder

Jeff Collins, of Woodstock, announced last week his plans to run as a Democrat for the New York State Senate 46th district.

The district includes parts of Ulster, Albany and Schenectady counties, as well as the entirety of Greene and Montgomery counties. The seat is currently held by Republican Sen. George Amedore.

“I believe in universal healthcare,” Collins said. “To me, healthcare is a right, not a privilege given only to those who can afford high premiums and high deductibles.”

Collins noted that the state Assembly overwhelmingly passed the New York Health Act, which had the potential to ensure universal healthcare for all residents. However, the Senate did not bring the bill up for a vote.

“If I am elected, I will push to get the New York Health Act passed by the Senate and enacted as soon as possible,” he stated in the release.

Read the full article at The Recorder here.

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LETTER: Support candidates who endorse Medicare for all, Michael Kaufman, Oneonta Daily Star

For the first time, candidates running for U.S. Congress in our area (District 19) have clearly endorsed Medicare for all. Four of the six Democratic candidates who plan to be on the ballot in the June 26 primary —  Jeff Beals, Dave Clegg, Brian Flynn and Gareth Rhodes — have endorsed a single-payer health insurance plan: the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676. (New York’s 19th Congressional District includes Delaware, Otsego, and Sullivan counties and runs east to New England.)

This plan provides public health insurance (including vision and dental) for everyone — with no premiums, co-pays or deductibles. As in the many other countries with a single-payer system, we would be able to afford this great coverage by drastically cutting the overhead that private insurers charge (17 to 20 percent compared with the 2 to 5 percent that Medicare pays) and by eliminating the inefficiencies of having many competing insurers. Everyone would be covered by a single insurer (Medicare), and could choose almost any health care provider.

Momentum is building for single-payer. The number of Congressional co-sponsors of H.R. 676 has swelled to 121 and a similar bill in the Senate now has 17 co-sponsors. A New York State version of single-payer, the NY Health Act, has passed the Assembly multiple times and is only one vote short in the state Senate.

Read the full letter at the Daily Star here.

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LETTER: Support New York Health Act to benefit all residents, Dominica Quackenbush, Poughkeepsie Journal

Talk about wasting money. Over decades, my employer and I paid well over $300,000 in premiums for my Empire Blue Cross, Blue Shield (BCBS) employee health insurance plan. I hardly ever went to the doctor for 30 of those years. Now that I have chronic health conditions, I am paying $14,000 to $17,000 per year in out-of-pocket expenses for treatments my insurance won’t cover because they claim that chronic conditions are not something they will pay for. What is the reason for having health insurance, if you can’t turn to insurance companies for help when you need it? It may be legal; but, it’s unethical.

Read the full letter at the Poughkeepsie Journal here.

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LETTER: Say yes to health act, Valerie Kaufman, Riverdale Press

As of this writing, Republicans have agreed to give up the individual mandate for affordable care, which the Congressional Budget Office has said would deprive 13 million people of health care.

Says Paul Ryan, “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid), which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.”

In contrast, the New York Health Act — so close to passing in the state legislature — would provide universal comprehensive health coverage, including primary, preventive, specialists, hospital, mental health, reproductive health, dental, vision, prescription drugs, lab tests and medical supplies. We will be free to choose our doctors, instead of those within insurance networks.

The bill has been vetted by experts in health care management and has been shown to be affordable.

Tell your state legislators to vote “yes” on the New York Health Act.

Read the letter at the Riverdale Press here.

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LETTER: Let me tell you about a great woman named Catherine Wolf, Barbara Estrin, Riverdale Press

Catherine Wolf, whose opinion piece is republished below, died on Wednesday, Feb. 7, a few weeks after this piece appeared.

She was thrilled to see it in print because it supports the necessity for the New York Health Act, legislation she hoped would not only prolong her life and that of other ALS victims, but would also ensure health care as a right for all her fellow state residents.

The particular story here is one of many battles she waged to accommodate the ravages of a disease from which she suffered for more than 21 years. ALS left her unable to talk, walk or eat without a feeding tube. She breathed only with the help of an implanted heart ventilator. 

Though the immediate cause of her death was sepsis that did too much damage to her body, the medication denial she describes would have left her unable to function as she had been: With the spirit that became an inspiration to all who knew her and read her words.

She would want her readers to hear once more about the New York Health Act which, because it covers prescription drugs, would have authorized the medication she needed without regard to profits for big pharma or insurance companies, and would allow doctors to practice medicine unimpeded by excess paperwork.

Read the full letter at the Riverdale Press here.

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LETTER: Single-payer plan puts people ahead of profit, Kevin P. Reilly, Albany Times-Union

I again enjoyed another letter from Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State ("Single-payer system would be utter disaster," Feb. 7). She is surely rivaling the Brothers Grimm in the production of fairy tales.

Her prior entertaining story told of how the state's economy would erode if the minimum wage were raised even a nickel. Unemployment would rise and production would flatten.

With a mountain of statistical evidence, her latest effort explains how a single-payer health care system would be a "disaster." Her plot has holes, however, in that she doesn't reveal why dozens of countries have abandoned the corporation-based system she touts, and why none of those nations has reverted to that profit-oriented mechanism.

She ignores the fact that decisions by health care providers in the United States are made with money in mind, rather than with people. Of course, primarily insurance companies would suffer if we join Europe and Canada in using a single-payer approach. It is this truth that surely drives Briccetti's creativity.

Read letter here at the Albany Times-Union.

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Activists beg Kensington's State Senator to support NY Health Act, The Patch

Kensington activists are begging their Democratic state senator, who typically caucuses with Republicans, to support the his party's universal health care act in Albany, which he has refused to do.

Community organizers wrote to State Senator Simcha Felder on Thursday to demand he declare his stance on the New York Health Act — which would provide single-payer healthcare to all New Yorkers — and join 31 Democrats in the senate who support the act.

Felder, who represents District 17, has refused to take a public position for about three years and the New York Health Act remains stuck in the state senate's Health committee, of which Felder is a member.

Felder has said repeatedly that he doesn't have enough information to make a decision.

Read the full article at The Patch.

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LETTER: Thanks for listening on single-payer health care, George Jolly, Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Many thanks to the Adirondack Voters for Change for inviting us (New York Assemblyman Phil Steck, single-payer activist Ting Barrow and George Jolly, MD) to the Jan. 18 informational night concerning the New York Health Act.

The New York Health Act is a “single-payer” system of health care finance. Under a single-payer system, a single public agency is responsible for paying all necessary medical care. The only participation requirement is residency. There are no co-pays, no deductibles and no premiums. The system is financed by progressive taxes on payroll and on unearned income. Using tax brackets and rates proposed by Gerald Friedman, UMass economist, it is estimated that 98 percent of New Yorkers would pay less, taking into account premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. The New York Health program would replace Medicare and Medicaid (incorporating the current funding for those programs) and eliminate all commercial insurance, with universal coverage at least as good as that currently available to state workers. The NY Health program would negotiate pricing with manufacturers of drugs and medical devices.

Read the full letter at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

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LETTER: Health care must be a right in the US, Sarah Outterson-Murphy, The Oneonta Daily Star

Recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders held a health care town hall online. The Medicare for All event brought together doctors, nurse practitioners and business owners to testify about the need for health care for everyone. I learned the horrifying fact that nearly 40,000 people died in this country last year, just because they didn’t have health insurance and did not get the care they needed, like blood pressure medication or cancer testing.

Read the full letter at the Daily Star.

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LETTER: Support the New York Health Act, Sarah Outterson-Murphy, Walton Reporter

I agree with last week’s article on Medicaid that property taxes are a big burden on the county. But I was surprised that Chair Tina Mole did not mention one of the best possibilities for reducing our local Medicaid costs: the New York Health Act. This is a bill to cover healthcare for everyone in New York, like Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill would do nationally.

Read the full letter at the Walton Reporter.

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LETTER: The 3 Giants' Health Plan, Elizabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times

Before spending lots of time, effort and money developing a new health care “product,” Warren E. Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase should realize that using a market approach to health care has failed miserably in this country.

They should go with Mr. Buffett’s earlier assessment. He suggested that despite “limited knowledge,” he thought that single payer is probably the best system, adding: “We are such a rich country. In a sense, we can afford to do it.”

Instead of reinventing the wheel, they should consult a group of experts who understand the needs of patients and populations and who have for many years studied the public policies that can best fulfill these needs. Physicians for a National Health Program, on whose board I sit, would be glad to oblige.

Read the original letter at the New York Times

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LETTER: Health care is a state issue, too, Sunny Aslam, Auburn Press-Citizen

In New York, we have a chance to pass progressive reforms sought out by a majority of voters. Universal healthcare in the form of the New York Health Act has passed the Assembly for years and is one state Senate sponsor away from a majority. NYHA supporters need to flip a Republican seat to get the last sponsor needed for a majority. State Sens. DeFrancisco, Ritchie and Helming, all Republicans from central New York, have declined to support Medicare for all, with no plan of their own. If one of the congressional Democratic candidates would oppose them and win, all those who live in New York might have guaranteed health coverage.

Read the full letter at the Auburn Press-Citizen

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LETTER: Single payer health care could save the state billions, Howie Hawkins, Albany Times-Union

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last September that a state single-payer public health plan would be a "good idea." But he said nothing about it in his State of the State and budget messages.

A state "Medicare for All" system would save $2.7 billion to insure state employees, which would take a big bite out of the $4.4 billion deficit the state faces.

Read the full letter at the Albany Times-Union

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LETTER: To drive down the cost of care: stay healthy, Tony Del Plato, Finger Lakes Times

Universal health care is a really good idea, despite Mr. Robert VanKuren’s claim to the contrary (Letter to the Editor, Jan. 4). He says a Hoover Institute report “goes into a detailed analysis of the shortcomings of the single-payer approach.” I read the report. It does not mention single-payer health care at all. Perhaps Mr. VanKuren confused single payer with Obamacare.

Read the full letter at the Finger Lakes Times

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LETTER: Sen. Valesky has abandoned progressive values, Marthe Reed, Syracuse Post-Standard

In September of last year, Sen. Dave Valesky assured me of his commitment to the GENDA Act and of his willingness to sponsor the legislation in the New York Senate. Yet all efforts to follow-up fell on deaf ears: the GENDA Act never came to a vote.

Like the New York Health Act--which would provide comprehensive, universal health coverage for every New Yorker at significant savings and solve the city of Syracuse's retirement debt crisis--GENDA has been blocked in the state Senate because Valesky's Independent Democratic Conference caucuses with Republicans in the Senate, giving the GOP leadership, preventing any progressive legislation coming to a vote.

Read the full letter at the Syracuse Post-Standard

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LETTER: A secret about New York health, Madeline Zevon, The Riverdale Press

To the editor:

Many people are unaware of how close the state of New York came this past year to passing single-payer health care. 

In the last legislative session, the New York Health Act passed in the state Assembly 94-46, and in the state senate, it had 31 co-sponsors — just one vote short of a majority. Yet, little was reported. The New York Times covered the California single-payer bill, but I missed any mention of the New York health bill.

Read the full letter at The Riverdale Press.

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LETTER: Health care bureaucracy is killing us softly, slowly, Catherine Wolf, The Riverdale Press

I am writing this by raising my right eyebrow, which triggers a switch.

I have had ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, for 21 long years. It is an expensive disease, especially in my current condition: quadriplegic and ventilator dependent.

My prescriptions are filled through CVS Caremark. In the news recently is the proposed bid of CVS to buy Aetna. Since Aetna provides drugs for Medicare patients, this merger will make CVS-Aetna huge, making it more difficult for patients and doctors to get the drugs they need because profit will be the only goal.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Here’s my story.

Read the full letter at The Riverdale Press.

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LETTER: Universal healthcare is the key to improving NY's business climate, Howie Hawkins, Syracuse Post-Standard

Your Jan. 14 editorial ("CNY economy needs workforce training") cites a CenterState CEO survey of business leaders who said rising employee benefit costs were "the No. 1 pressure point for their businesses in 2017."

But your response seems to be call for state tax and spending cuts. That seems implied by your comment that the "state's tax climate also matters" and adding that the state faces a $4 billion deficit, plus additional lost revenue from federal changes to health care and tax policy, which is estimated to be over $2 billion.

Read the full letter at Syracuse Post-Standard.


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