Report highlights need for 'single-payer' system in New York. Here's what it found. 

BY SHANNON YOUNG | 05/04/2022 05:30 AM EDT 

ALBANY, N.Y. — Black Americans, Indigenous individuals and people of color were disproportionately harmed by the Covid-19 pandemic due, in part, to their unequal access to quality, affordable health care, according to a new analysis that makes the case for a universal health care system in New York.

Key context: The report, which the Campaign for New York Health released Wednesday in conjunction with the state’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, examines racial health outcome disparities and how the state could combat them by passing the “New York Health Act.”

Advocates behind the contentious legislation, which would establish a single-payer-style health care system in New York, told POLITICO that they hope the report’s findings and recommendations can spark a renewed focus on the issue after years of inaction in Albany.

The New York Health Act has slowly gained support in the Legislature, with the bill’s sponsors, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), announcing it had received majority support in both chambers as of March 2021. Despite that, the legislation has struggled to get traction amid concerns critics have raised over its potential costs and the feasibility of setting up a single-payer system at the state level.

What they said: “For a long time health advocates have been sounding the alarm about racial inequity in health care,” said Ursula Rozum, a Campaign for New York Health co-director. “So it felt like, two years into the pandemic, it was really important to try to highlight the racial justice aspect of why we’re fighting to pass universal health care.”

Assemblymember Michaelle Solages, a Nassau County Democrat who chairs the caucus, added that the report seeks to provide the facts that back up the claims of racial disparities in health care.

“We all see that these things are happening in our community,” she said in an interview. “We want to ensure that we’re tackling the issues that are most important. And, with the pandemic, it highlighted and pushed us more to get it done.”

The findings: The report, which compiles national and New York state data, found that Black Americans are 10 percent less likely than their white counterparts to hold employer-sponsored health coverage. They’re also more likely to hold medical debt and to die from pregnancy-related causes, according to the analysis.

Black and Latinx Americans, the report also found, were less likely than white Americans to have jobs that permit remote work; and more likely to live in communities experiencing health provider shortages.

It further found that “public health insurance programs play a major role in providing affordable care and better outcomes, especially for Black Americans.”

The recommendations: The report concluded that a universal system of publicly funded guaranteed health care, like that proposed under the New York Health Act, “is the most equitable and affordable way to achieve comprehensive coverage for all.”

“Bringing all residents into a single public plan would eliminate the inequity in access that results from a fragmented system,” it noted. “Campaign for New York Health recommends universal single-payer health care as a policy intervention to create a health system that promotes racial equity and quality care for all.”

What’s next: The Campaign for New York Health and BPHA Caucus will officially unveil the report and its findings today at an Albany news conference.

Organizers said the event will kick off a monthlong effort to force action on the New York Health Act, which is currently at the committee level in both the Senate and Assembly. The legislative session runs through early June.

“We’re hoping to get the attention of the leadership,” Rozum said

Solages said the 60-plus member BPHA Caucus will put its “political weight behind” that push.

“I’m putting my 100 percent effort into getting this done this session,” she said. “But if we reach a point where we are not successful this year, we’ll come back again to the drawing table and we’ll push it even harder next year. This is something that our community can’t wait for. So we’re ready to push; we’re ready to get it done.” 

In a statement, Rivera said he would continue to push for the measure this session.

"As I have always said, the New York Health Act is a very challenging proposition due to its ramifications and it requires me to be in constant dialogue with my leadership, colleagues and other critical stakeholders in an effort to build consensus around the bill," he said. "I will continue pushing the conversation forward and I hope to make progress before the end of session.”


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