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LETTER: New York needs health act for comprehensive care, Peter Van Aken, Poughkeepsie Journal

In spite of recent presidential and secretary of health and human services speeches about plans to bring about a lowering of prescription drug costs, the stranglehold of unreasonable medical fees, by the insurance companies, still continues — and makes essential medical care a problem for the vast majority of New Yorkers.

We need the New York Health Act, a bill in the New York State Legislature Senate, (S4840A) to be passed and enacted.

Right now, the Insurance companies are in charge of our personal health care- giving us high premiums, high deductibles, and co-pays. The New York Health Act promises universal comprehensive health care for all, and covers treatment by primary doctors, specialists, hospitalization, mental health, dental, vision, prescription drugs, lab tests and medical supplies — this legislation would create coverage that would be even more comprehensive than commercial insurance health plans- and it is calculated that it would save 45 billion dollars a year — $2,200 for each New Yorker.

Read the rest of the letter here.

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SERIES: Healthcare in America, Lauren Grace, This is the Bronx

At age 29, with a blood clot at the base of my brain, I was hospitalized for three days in 2015. I had to be constantly monitored for strokes or seizures so, do to a lack of available hospital beds, this meant I was in the ICU for three straight days. 

I initially went to the ER with what I thought was an exceptionally awful, multi-day migraine. When the ER doctor ran into my curtained off area to ask if I had hit my head (I hadn’t) because the CT Scan demonstrated bleeding, I was terrified. I had to be transported by ambulance to a larger hospital where an MRI could be done on Saturday afternoon. Nothing like this had ever happened to me or my husband before, so neither of us – in all the panic – thought to call my insurance company to obtain pre-authorization for all of the medical services I would need. We didn’t know how much would be needed until it was happening!

Since we did not call, and since I had a Blue Cross Blue Shield high-deductible plan, many additional costs were passed on to me, and I owed far more than my already high deductible of $6,000. After leaving the hospital, I had to continue to take expensive medications to help break down the clot. Though I was directed to start this treatment the day I was discharged, the hospital had not yet submitted its bills to BCBS; without these, as far as the insurance company was concerned, I had not yet met my deductible. I was left with no choice about paying hundreds of out-of-pocket dollars for my medications, on top of my hospital bills.

Read the full story at This is the Bronx here.

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LETTER: Get New York Health Act passed, Richard Spencer, Auburn Citizen

I noticed Andrew Dennison, in his recent letter to the editor, does not cite Canadians losing their home or declaring bankruptcies because of the high cost of medical treatment. Instead, he repeats the often-anecdotal stories of long waiting times often forcing Canadians to come to the states for medical treatments. Actually, most Canadians are tourists encountering medical problems. Mr. Dennison argues against single payer because the Canadian program does not cover prescriptions, dental care and eye care. Apparently, he is ignorant that the New York Health Act covers these items and much more.

Read the rest of the letter at the Auburn Citizen here.

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LETTER: Health coverage can be improved, Judith Esterquest, Auburn Citizen

Waiting lists? If single-payer caused wait times, our Medicare recipients would wait. Fact: They don’t. Neither will NY Health. About Canadians coming to the US? Fact: Peer-reviewed research concludes that very few Canadians come to the US for care on their own nickel — unlike the 750K Americans who seek care outside the US every year.

But taxes, taxes! The typical Cayuga family (income under $60K/year) will pay $670 per year in NY Health payroll taxes; their employer(s) will pay $2,680. This $670 eliminates ALL of what you pay now for your family: no premiums, co-pays, deductibles, out-of-network charges, and no payments for prescriptions, hearing aids, dentistry, etc. NY Health eliminates all risk of medical bankruptcy and financial obstacles to getting the care you need — 98 percent of New Yorkers will pay less than they pay now.

Read the full letter at the Auburn Citizen here.

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ARTICLE: Seeking broader support for NY Health Act, Wellsville Daily Reporter

Susan Beckley, a former medical office manager and medical billing specialist who is presently an administrator for four small businesses, explained how the NYHA will affect the people, businesses, doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes; and the financial advantages for local municipalities and school districts at a May 1 presentation organized by Yates Progressives.

Beckley, a Tompkins County resident, is seeking support to campaign for election to New York Senate. Using Yates County data, Beckley showed how local property taxes would be reduced significantly once the burden of Medicaid and municipal and school health insurance programs are relieved.

Read the rest of the article here.

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LETTER: We need to protect health care, Barbara Estrin, Riverdale Press

Baby Boomers are not entitled to $2 trillion. They will explode the deficit, complained lame-duck Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on a recent “Meet the Press” because “Baby Boomers are retiring.”

For those of us in Riverdale who are enjoying (or anticipating) the benefits of Medicare, we need to recognize that the Congressional juggernaut that couldn’t fully repeal Obamacare last summer has now turned its sights to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Seema Verma, President Trump’s head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is urging states to add a work requirement to Medicaid, even as states across the country “cut costs” by reducing benefits — changing prescription drug protocols, increasing “prior authorization” requirements, delaying and denying life-saving therapies.

Read the full letter here.

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LETTER: It's time to adopt NY Health Act, David Knapp, Riverdale Press

Welfare for slackers. Medicaid and Medicare aren’t health care, but entitlements, according to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Now that his huge tax cut for billionaires and corporations has passed, exploding our deficit, Ryan wants to save money on the backs of the old, the poor, the sick, the disabled — and children —  by cutting benefits to Medicare and Medicaid (and then Social Security).

Medicare is our most trusted health care program. It’s not as comprehensive or affordable as it could be, but it’s lots better than most people have before they turn 65. Its public health effects are remarkable — although the United States spends twice as much as other countries, our health metrics are terrible, except for those who have been on Medicare for 15 to 20 years.

Universal health care creates healthy populations, even among the very old. And while private insurance spends 15 to 20 percent of every premium dollar on profits, marketing, executive salaries and huge bureaucracies whose jobs are to protect profits, not health, traditional Medicare spends 1.8 percent on overhead.

Why so low? Because its single-payer approach seeks no profits, and doesn’t need huge bureaucracies designed to ensure profits by denying care.

Read the full letter here.

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LETTER: Support Healthcare Reform Here in New York State, Dr. Marianna Kaufman, Ithaca Times

In recent decades our US healthcare system has become a money-making operation for corporate profiteers in the guise of insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

I have been a practicing physician for years in Syracuse, and now in Tompkins County. I have spent an unhealthy amount of time dealing with insurance company obstruction. At a whim, insurance will deny coverage of previously-covered medications, or deny preventive visits. Hours of office time that could be better spent on patients goes to phone calls and paperwork. Patients who do not qualify for assistance often go without medications they need, or delay getting exams and diagnostic tests that could detect diseases like cancer in the earliest stages.

How can we, as a society, continue to dictate who gets to live a healthy, disease free life and who doesn’t?

Read the full letter here.

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OP-ED: NYSD 17 For Progress: Progressive Policies, Transparent Politics, King's County Politics

With so many consequential actions taking place in Albany and Washington, now is the time for engaged citizens to speak out about the issues that matter to them and to their communities.

New York Senate District 17 for Progress (NYSD 17 for Progress) was launched in 2016 by residents of State Senate District 17 (Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Borough Park, Sunset Park, Sheepshead Bay, Bensonhurst) to address key issues in our neighborhoods and state, and to directly engage our Senate representative, Simcha Felder. We felt that too many matters, such as affordable health care, criminal justice reform, voting reforms, and street safety, were not getting enough attention from the Senator or his staffers.

...

We hosted a public forum on the New York Health Act — a bill advocates say could provide quality health care to every New Yorker — but our state senator declined our invitation to attend. What’s more, he has never discussed the legislation publicly in any detail, even after we were joined by 25 other community organizationswho called on him to engage in a dialogue on the bill. And during his recent push for armed security guards in schools, we sent the Senator a series of questionsasking him to explain his position and share if he would be open to new gun regulations. Once again, he did not respond.

Read the full op-ed here.

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LETTER: State Legislature must pass NY Health Act, Sarah Outterson-Murphy, Oneonta Daily Star

It was heartbreaking to read this paper’s story about the woman who had to postpone her marriage to keep health insurance for her daughter’s birth. What kind of a nation are we if our friends and neighbors must make decisions like this to ensure health care?

In no other democratic nation in the world must citizens delay marriages to afford health care. Peer nations provide everyone health care as a matter of right — like firefighters and police and libraries. And people in those countries are healthier and live longer.

New Yorkers can do better. 

Read the rest of the letter here.

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LETTER: The time has come for single-payer healthcare, William Dornburgh, Oneonta Daily Star

Re: “Health insurance costs strain family resources.” That lead article in the April 2 Daily Star should surprise no one. The Affordable Care Act made promises of reduced health care costs that could not be kept. The ACA has increased premium costs to employers, employees, private payers and penalized by mandates both those who were not previously insured as well as the insurance industry. The Republican alternatives have not been any better.

Read the full letter here.

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LETTER: Akshar should read up on NYHA, James Siegrist, Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin

In Broome County, 64 percent of our property taxes pay for the county’s Medicaid contribution. With the New York Health Act (NYHA), this would go away. Another 20 percent could be subtracted from the county budget for the health insurance for all current and retired county employees — fire, police, library, school, etc. — paid for by county taxpayers who often have little or no health insurance.

NYHA would shave off $71 billion of New York’s $280 billion health care tab this year, which will inevitably be more next year. As Mr. Wolcott wrote, “one-third of our premium dollars are wasted on private insurers’ billing, marketing and salaries,” never mind on all the corporate mergers and takeovers.

Read the full letter here.

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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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