Dr. Linda Kleinhenz, Hudson Valley

My name is Dr. Linda Kleinhenz and I live in the Hudson Valley. I've been practicing optometry in New York for 30 years, and a lack of insurance coverage is causing so many people to go without the care that they need. This becomes all-consuming in people’s lives, creating such anxiety, as they fret over the procedures and treatments that they need, but cannot afford.

As a self-employed doctor, I have also personally experienced the challenges of affording healthcare. My husband has cancer, and even with his new eligibility for Medicare the drugs are hideously expensive. It costs us thousands of dollars each month for just one of his five required medications.

For myself, I purchased the most basic single policy available on New York State’s health exchange,  which costs me $5200 and covers nothing until I satisfy a $4000 deductible. Each year, the “health plan” that is offered costs more and covers less, since the deductible keeps increasing.

Our current health insurance system is clearly inadequate.  The New York Health Act would be a godsend to all New Yorkers! In no other developed nation do people forego needed care because they can not pay for it. We desperately need a new system of healthcare to include every citizen in this country. Why is America the last to understand this?


Melissa, Dutchess County

My name is Melissa. I’m 55 and I’m from Dutchess County, NY.

My husband and I are both self-employed and have to find our own health insurance. But even with health insurance, I’ve still had major problems getting the care I need  – specifically because we have no out-of-network options and no access to compounded medications. I’ve skipped getting surgery, prescription drugs, mental health care, dental care, vision care, diagnostic tests and acupuncture treatment because we simply can’t afford it.

Even with our insurance, we've had trouble with premiums, deductibles, co-pays and paying bills out-of-pocket. Doctors can’t help predict what things will cost. And we can’t predict what insurance will make us pay. And the way insurance companies decide what goes to the deductible make it almost impossible to reach it.

Everyone should be able to get the care they need in New York, no matter how much money they make. We should establish a single-payer system in New York State so that we don’t have to worry about how much it’s going to cost to get even basic medical care.

Chinyere Onwumelu, RN, Rockland County

My name is Chinyere Onwumelu and I am an RN in Rockland County. I care for patients who are at their most vulnerable. Too many times I see patients having to fight insurance companies to get the care they absolutely need. Patients must literally fight for their lives at times. With the New York Health Act, medical decisions will be made between the doctor, nurse and patient – not a bureaucrat who has no clinical training and has never even set eyes on the patient.

Sandi Sonnenfeld, Hudson Valley

My name is Sandi Sonnenfeld, I live in the Hudson Valley, and I am 54 years old.  I used to work 60 hours a week in a very high-pressure corporate communications job in NYC. After losing my job and COBRA expired, we signed up on the Exchange.  We paid for the coverage with the savings I had put aside, but neither the psychiatrist or psychologist I saw regularly for chronic depression were covered under any of the Exchange plans, so we had to pay out of pocket. Then my husband was violently assaulted and diagnosed with PTSD, so he too was seeing a psychologist on a weekly basis. In 2016, our healthcare bills exceeded $40,000. It so quickly drained our savings that we had to sell our house in Brooklyn and relocate to a cheaper location in the Hudson Valley. It is terrifying knowing you need critical health services but to procure that care, you have to use up all the financial resources you’ve worked years to accrue.

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Melanie Wagner, Greene County

My name is Melanie Wagner, I am 44 years old, and I live in Greene County. I have a rare disease and even though I have insurance, it does not cover the specialists that I need. Over the last 5 years I spent an average of a month in the hospital each year and have had surgical intervention 2-3 times a year. I do not feel that my doctors can choose the healthcare I need because insurance deems what tests I get, what procedure I have, and how long I can stay hospitalized.

I am self-employed, so I wait as much time as possible between procedures, because I don't get paid for recovery time. My husband hates his job but we need the health insurance, so he is afraid to look elsewhere, even though the insurance costs us about $130 a week plus the copays and medicine which cost me $5229 out of pocket last year. Many people in my support group cannot afford the copays for medicines and treatment.

It gives me hope for the future that the New York Health Act is a possibility now. My daughter inherited my rare kidney disease, and I am trying so hard to make her road smoother than mine has been. Right now, insurance controls everything. Let’s free our doctors to make health decisions for us instead!

Barbara Dyskant, Southern Tier

My name is Barbara Dyskant, and I’m a leukemia mom. I live in rural Western New York State. I feel sickened by our “healthcare” system that is neither healthy nor caring.  I urge everyone to support universal single-payer healthcare, to support the New York Health Act.

On May 26, 2009, my beautiful 17-year-old daughter Nadine was diagnosed with leukemia. 40,000 people in the U.S. die from lack of health insurance each year; she could have been number 40,001.

We came scarily close to not catching her leukemia on time to save her.  She was pale and tired and I thought she was “just anemic.” With our high deductible insurance we would have to pay for a blood test.  After some thought, I got her the test anyway “just in case,” picking up an iron supplement on the way to the lab. After the test we got a call: “Take her to the emergency room now.” We drove to Strong Hospital in Rochester, where she was immediately whisked upstairs for transfusions, hospitalized for a month, and underwent more than two years of chemotherapy. The oncologist told us we’d caught the leukemia in time for her to have the best chance of survival; had we waited much longer it could have been too late.

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Nancy Morelle, New Hartford

My name is Nancy Morelle and I am a vegetable farmer living in New Hartford, NY. Several years ago, before the Affordable Care Act, my health insurance was about $350 per month, which was impossible for me on my income, even with working additional jobs as a dietician and consultant. Many of my farming friends work another full-time job just for the health insurance. Once the Affordable Care Act passed, my health insurance went down to $20 a month, and last year my income was low enough that I qualified for Medicaid so now my coverage is free.

It would be disastrous for me if the ACA were repealed. But even now, the insurance system causes people like me unnecessary stress and worry. With my small business, my income changes every year, so I don’t know if I’ll be on Medicaid or the ACA in the future. And, when you have to reapply every year for the ACA insurance, you are constantly jumping through hoops and changing your plan. I never know if my doctor would accept the new insurance or if I would have to change doctors. I would start with one specialist and I couldn’t follow through with them next year. Or the doctor would stay the same, but I would never know if I would get a huge bill from the new insurance plan for the same care. There was no continuity of care, and the worry about billing was always in the back of my mind. I support the New York Health Act because care would be covered for everyone, no matter what your job, without worry about bills or networks. There's no reason we can't provide this in New York State.

Jesse, Tioga County

My name is Jesse Bennett and I am 66 years old. I live in Tioga County, NY. I spent 9 years uninsured, and have also had problems getting the health care I need even when I did have insurance, due to insurance company restrictions. I have experienced major health issues like tooth loss and a badly torn rotator cuff. The dental problems were only minimally covered by insurance...the torn rotator cuff not at all, even though it directly, and nearly completely, negatively impacted my profession. We need to adopt a universal healthcare system, regulate costs, and take profit/loss out of the equation. I lived in Germany for 20 years, and know firsthand how well such a system works! I support the New York Health Act now.

Andrea Abbott, Central Square

As a minister for a small church in a rural area of upstate New York, I am often confronted with the health problems of both church members and people who come to ask for aid. We all have bodies, rich and poor alike, and our bodies are subject to accident and disease, no matter who we are. However, the difference in medical outcomes are often starkly different. It is often said that no amount of money can buy health. Though wealth, or at least good insurance, cannot change many conditions, it can mean the difference between life and death in many others. Many people cannot find work that gives them insurance, such as those working multiple part time jobs or those who are independent contractors. For many people, though they work very hard indeed, illness sends them from survival to homelessness. In the worst cases, people with life threatening conditions have planned to refuse treatment because the cost of treatment would bankrupt their families. In one case, a person planned suicide rather than subject his or her family to poverty. In this case, an alternative was found, but it left me very concerned about those who may have done this without consulting others.

I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people. A society which grants life to some and death to others based on their ability to pay is morally destitute. Such as society diminishes everyone in it. If we are all to live up to our moral responsibilities, we must insist on the right of decent health care for everyone.

Nancy Dickerson, Cortland

My name is Nancy Dickerson and I live in Cortland. I am 59 years old and I am a licensed clinical social worker. I have seen how the cost of healthcare and insurance prevents people from getting the mental health care they need. I have clients who cancel appointments because they don't have enough money to pay out of pocket if they have a high deductible or copay, or who drop out of treatment or don't take their medications due to not being able to afford either. I have also seen many patients who are refused access to certain counselors if they don't accept their insurance. As a counselor myself, there are certain insurances that are difficult to become providers for, and there are so many that it is difficult to deal with them all.

I have also experienced these issues as a patient myself. Though I am a social worker, I keep other jobs so I can get insurance. I struggle to afford dental care. I also find the healthcare system to be impossible to afford. I went in to urgent care for a tick bite on a weekend which I knew to show symptoms of Lyme Disease. My doctor isn't available from Friday to Sunday. The bill came back at nearly $700 for a 10 minute visit for antibiotics.

We must remove high deductibles for people with lower income. Quite simply, there should not be profit in our healthcare system. As long as insurance companies are allowed to make a profit, their incentives and priorities are in the wrong place. We need healthcare for all.