October 10th, 2019


Katie Robbins [email protected] | 917-657-4663

Mohini Sharma | [email protected] | 585-623-9633



Upstate Hearing Highlights Popular Support for 

Universal, Guaranteed Healthcare 

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

Rochester, NY— The second in a series of regional public hearings on the New York Health Act [A.5248, S.3577] convened in Rochester 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 representatives from labor, healthcare and social service providers, upstate businesses, workers, farmers, patients, and care-givers. 

The New York Health Act would establish a universal, guaranteed healthcare system, also known as a single-payer health plan covering all New York State residents. It would provide complete health coverage without deductibles, co-pays, restricted provider networks, or out-of-network charges. Primary, preventive, and specialty care; hospitalization; mental health; substance abuse treatment; reproductive health; dental, vision, and hearing; and prescription drugs and medical supplies would all be covered. 

Advocates say it solves both the healthcare cost and coverage crisis because the NY Health Act will not only cover every resident, it will also reign in the pricing, administrative bloat, salaries, and profit that drain financial resources from the healthcare system, all while providing comprehensive coverage.

“Every year, millions of New Yorkers with health insurance don’t get the health care they need because of cost, or suffer financial hardship to get it,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, Assembly sponsor of the New York Health Act.  “The New York Health Act is the only plan that meets that need.  These hearings are helping us hear from the public about their concerns, get input for refining the bill, and inform the public about the bill and our fellow legislators about people’s concerns.  Today’s turnout shows the growing support for universal, single-payer health care in central and western New York.” 

“Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers face financial distress due to the ever-rising costs of health care in our State and many more lack access because of outrageous barriers to care that plague our broken health care system," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee and sponsor of the bill. “This joint public hearing on the New York Health Act will bring a broad range of voices from Rochester and Western New York to discuss the bill in good faith and make their recommendations. This is another step forward towards our ultimate goal -- to make healthcare a right and not a privilege in New York." 

“As the home and final resting place of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, Rochester is the cradle of human rights and social justice in America, which is why I am proud to support universal health care for all New Yorkers,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “Universal health care will grant every citizens the ability to maintain control of their health, which means they will be in control of their own lives. These ideals are at the root of our efforts to create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities for our citizens.”

Ever-increasing healthcare costs pose major challenges for the state budget, New York households, businesses, and labor unions tasked with negotiating benefits for their members. The UAW strike illustrates the precariousness of employer provided health insurance, as GM cut off thousands of workers from coverage. President of UAW Local 1097, Dan Maloney, shared comments as his members are on strike in part because of rising healthcare costs: "High quality affordable health care plan is necessary for our members well being. All families need decent medical care coverage to maintain a healthy existence and thrive. Health care is a basic human need just as food, clothing, and shelter are. A single-payer universal health care plan would be the most cost effective way to provide medical coverage for all Americans, and it would have the added benefit of reducing cost to the business community. That would make American goods and services more globally competitive and spur a growing economy! Yes, every American wins with a universal single payer healthcare system. Business owners, workers, and families."

While experts pointed to the fiscal benefits of the NY Health Act, many people testified to their own personal healthcare tragedies. New York resident and father, Scott Desnoyers, shared his heartbreaking story about recently losing his son after the insurer abruptly stopped covering necessary medication: “My son’s life was claimed for less than the cost of a family night out at a fast food restaurant. After missing a $20 premium payment, Fidelis Care decided that was enough to withhold a life saving medication from my son, Danny. A universal single-payer system such as the NY Health ACT or Medicare For All would cover the 30,000 American lives that are lost due to lack of health insurance coverage. All of these thousands of people have names; some names I know personally, like Danny, Shalynne, Abby, Noah, Joshua and so many more. I am working to change this for my children and my grandchildren. Enough is enough.”

With grassroots pressure, advocates are optimistic that the NY Health Act will move forward to model how a single-payer plan can reign in costs and provide high quality, universal coverage. At the time of the hearing, a majority of Assembly Members and 31 state Senators have cosponsored the bill -- just one short of a majority.

"As a healthcare worker, it hurts me to see people avoid getting the care that they need because they are afraid of how much it will cost.  As a cancer survivor trying to maintain my health, I know this same fear. Although I have health insurance, it's not enough. My union, 1199SEIU, has a mission of expanding quality healthcare coverage to every person in society as a human right. I believe that the New York Health Act is the path to removing unnecessary stress and fear from our lives so that we can focus more on caring for others." - Marcella Taylor, 30 year CNA, Rochester, NY.

"The only group to suffer with this plan [the New York Health Act] is the healthcare insurance companies. In this instance, we must consider them like steam engines or paddle wheel river boats. Their time has come and gone. They have outlived their value to society and are now a burden."- David G. Curry, PhD, APRN, Professor Emeritus of Nursing, SUNY Plattsburgh, & Member, New York State Nurses Association




“The New York Health Act is a beacon of hope for so many in our state who struggle to find affordable health insurance and are lacking access to quality health care. While the federal government continues its assault on the Affordable Care Act, the New York State Senate is looking at all options to guarantee health care for all New Yorkers. This hearing is another great opportunity for people to come forward and share their stories on the importance of access to health care for all New Yorkers. We continue to hold these hearings across the state to ensure that we are hearing from people of all backgrounds and experiences as we work towards building the best possible plan.” - State Senator Rachel May

"Access to quality healthcare should be a reality for all New Yorkers. As healthcare expenses continue to rise, it is clear that the status quo is not adequately serving our constituency. I have long been a supporter of the New York Health Act and look forward to its potential enactment." - Assemblywoman Hunter

“I have been a proponent of universal health care for New York residents for over a decade. Assemblyman Gottfried’s legislation, which I have continually supported, calls for a just and equitable health care system throughout the state,” said Assemblyman William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse. “I continue to support the NY Health Act and the Campaign for NY Health.”

In order to receive the critical long term supports and services we need to live, disabled people must typically impoverish ourselves to qualify for Medicaid, and even then struggle to receive adequate services, especially in managed care. The NY Health Act would not only provide coverage of long term care for everyone, it prioritizes community-based services, which support our right to community integration” - Kathryn Carroll, Esq., Director of Advocacy, Interim, Center for Disability Rights

“At Metro Justice we believe the New York Health Act is absolutely crucial to the fight for racial and economic justice in our communities. Health injustices disproportionately affect the working class, the poor, and communities of color. We are looking forward to seeing our representatives prioritize these causes and pass the NY Health Act, and move us one step closer to a just and equitable health care system.” - Mahima Iyengar, Metro Justice

“Farming is demanding work both physically and mentally.  Along with our employees, organic farmers work long hours bending, lifting, in sun, rain and snow, often on or near equipment that can be dangerous. Too many farmers cannot afford health insurance for themselves or their workers.  Those without insurance or who are underinsured are an accident or injury away from financial devastation. According to USDA data, a large percentage of farmers (or their spouse) work at off-farm jobs in order to access benefits like health insurance. I personally could not afford health insurance for the first twenty years of my farming career.”- Elizabeth Henderson, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York

"While insurance companies and big pharma record massive profits, everyday families are struggling to get the care they need when they need it. Rising out-of-pocket costs force more and more people to choose between rationing care or taking on debt. New York can be a national leader by passing the New York Health Act and finally guaranteeing health care as a human right." - Mercedes Phelan, Lead Organizer for Citizen Action of New York - Rochester Chapter

My company and my employees are being strangled by the high cost of health insurance. We pay exorbitant rates for inadequate coverage. It’s time for the NY Health Act to bring comprehensive coverage to all New Yorkers. I want to be able to get on with the job of running my company, and out of the business of my employee’s healthcare. “ - Betty Warrick, Yorkville Sound, Inc.

"To truly understand the depth of the crisis facing workers in our state, whether it has to do with working conditions, wages, or healthcare, we must listen to the voices of working people in our communities. Workers across upstate NY are struggling to access healthcare. Many low-wage jobs do not offer healthcare benefits and access is nearly impossible to the 600,000 undocumented workers in New York State who do not qualify for insurance. The challenges are especially severe for undocumented agricultural workers, who are are isolated in rural areas and face additional challenges due to language barriers, lack transportation, and threats from Border Patrol. The NY Health Act would guarantee that all workers have equal access to healthcare, regardless their immigration status and without having to rely on their boss. Public hearings on the NY Health Act are very important in order to shine a light on how working people are impacted by the inequities and injustices of the current health system." - Rebecca Fuentes, Lead Organizer, Workers' Center of Central NY.

“Providing quality care requires listening to our patients. The stories our patients and instructors share and the results of this report indicate that the current system isn’t working. That despite the high costs of the current health system don’t add up to better health outcome. We think it’s time to check our calculations and listen to the experiences of the patients and providers to determine the best way forward to a healthcare system where patients get the care they need and where physicians can do their jobs with the obstruction and waste that is created by the insurance industry.” - Azwade Rahman, Co-President, Students for a National Health Program SUNY Upstate.

 “A HUMAN RIGHT:  The American Academy of Family Physicians has produced policy statements declaring that “health care is a human right” and that a system of universal coverage for all Americans is an urgent goal. In New York, we have the opportunity to be innovators and leaders with the NY Health Act. I see patients suffering every day from lack of coverage, and this suffering is unconscionable. The time to act is NOW because we cannot avoid more illness, more suffering and more unnecessary deaths because of failure to pass this health care bill.” - Scott Hartman, MD, Director, Public Health Commission of the NY State Academy of Family Physicians 

“As the regional food bank serving Rochester and the ten surrounding counties, Foodlink’s mission is to leverage the power of food to end hunger and build healthier communities. We distribute food to thousands of individuals every month across the Finger Lakes, many of whom are visiting emergency food providers because they need to make the difficult choice between paying for the cost of their medication and putting food on their table. During two recent listening sessions at our member food pantries, clients spoke at length about their experiences with medical debt, skipping meals to pay for their family’s treatment, and their concerns for the health of their children with chronic illness. We regularly partner with health care providers to make fresh produce available to their patients with diet related illness, but programmatic solutions can only go so far without structural change to the healthcare system. That is why Foodlink supports the New York State Health Act and any effort to ensure that everyone has access to quality healthcare”. - Mitch Gruber, PhD Chief Strategy & Partnerships Officer, Foodlink, Inc.

“Whether we're sitting or standing, short or tall, there should be universal healthcare for us all put the power of health back in the hands of the people because healthcare is a human right.” - Agnes McCray, Community activist, Syracuse, NY

“There is a simple explanation for the fact that we spend more per person on healthcare in the United States, yet have significantly worse health outcomes than other countries. That extra money is going into the pockets of profiteers - insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and Wall Street. This system is immoral, and as more and more of us come together to fight it, it will become politically unsustainable. New York can lead the way in finally making healthcare a human right in this country.” -Rev. Emily McNeill, co-chair NYS Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and executive director, Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS.

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