COVID-19 and the economic crisis have thrown the dysfunctionality and injustice of our fragmented health care system into stark relief.
Hospitals are struggling to supply front-line workers with protective equipment; patients lay awake in intensive-care units wondering whether the treatment they are receiving will bankrupt them; structural inequalities amplify, ravaging low-income communities and communities of color; and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are losing their jobs and insurance just when universal coverage is most needed as a moral right and as a matter of public health.
Even before the crisis, millions of New Yorkers were uninsured or underinsured, rural and public hospitals were struggling to survive, and local governments were being crushed under the weight of rising health care costs.
We can and must do better.
The New York Health Act is a state-level, single-payer health care bill that would guarantee comprehensive health care to every New Yorker, regardless of age, income or employment, with no premiums, copays or deductibles — and with no networks, so everyone has their choice of doctor and hospital.
The program would be paid for progressively, with the vast majority of New Yorkers paying less than they do now. In fact, multiple studies have shown that the bill would save the state billions of dollars each year. It would also save on property taxes — currently, 22 percent in Putnam and 38 percent in Dutchess County go toward Medicaid.
The act has already passed the Assembly four times and is one vote shy of majority support in the Senate. New York could pass the bill this year if we put enough pressure on our elected leaders to summon the political courage to fix this broken system.
Jeff Mikkelson, Cold Spring
I agree Jeff. We need the NY Health Act.
I agree about the woeful inadequacies of our current healthcare system. I fear that we have not even begun to realize the enormous hardship that many of us will face when the bills come due for COVID-19 treatment, especially for those who have been hospitalized.
It is bad enough that people have lost jobs and loved ones. Now many will face the burden of navigating the gauntlet of deductibles and co-pays that comes with our for-profit health insurance system. If ever there was a time to join the rest of the civilized nations of the world in providing universal, hassle-free healthcare for their citizens, this is it. Our taxes pay for schools, roads, sanitation, parks, etc. Why not health care?
At this very moment the Trump administration is challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. Supreme Court. If the court sides with the president, another 20 million people will lose their health insurance. It may be up to the states to step up and provide healthcare coverage for its citizens. The New York Health Act might just be the way to go (nyhcampaign.org).
In July, I will turn 26 and in July, I will lose my health insurance. The thought of losing my health insurance in the midst of a global pandemic makes me more than a little anxious. My current employer does not offer health insurance, so I am left to the marketplace. A cursory search shows that the cheapest bronze plan is $457 with a $4,425 deductible. As July inches closer, I fret over the question: Will I be able to afford getting sick?
If society took the health of its citizens seriously, then I would not be asking this question. I am not the only one thinking about this either. Due to COVID-19, millions of people have lost their jobs and with their jobs, they have lost their insurance. There is something seriously wrong when in a time of utmost need, we have people losing their health insurance. And that is what it boils down to — right now, health care is treated as a privilege when it ought to be a right.
If our elected officials in the New York State government took health care seriously, then they would pass the New York Health Act. The New York Health Act would create such a system that values health care as a need, and as a human right. It would guarantee health care to all New Yorkers. There would be no more premiums, copays, or deductibles. We would pay for it like we do social security. Under the New York Health Act, we will simply go to the doctor without worrying about our wallet. That nagging question of “How am I going to pay for it” would be dropped from our minds completely.
If you think health care is a human right then please contact your elected officials and ask them to support the New York Health Act and talk to your friends and family about it too. You can learn more about the legislation and about the movement behind it at nyhcampaign.org.