Twenty years ago, catalyzed by 9/11 and a social and spiritual awakening, I left the security of the corporate world to do work that I find meaningful, for myself and for others. But meaning only goes so far when it comes to health care.
What followed was years of on again, off again insurance coverage — as a freelancer and then as a small business owner. What also followed was years of anxiety that comes with the uncertainty of whether an unforeseen health issue or accident will lay me up, unable to work, or unable to pay the bill even if working.
Nod your head if you can relate.
Politicians love to talk about small businesses being the backbone of our economy — but what if that backbone breaks and you can’t afford to care for it? Or bleeds you dry just paying for coverage even if you don’t get sick?
That’s why we need the New York Health Act, a plan for comprehensive, universal health coverage for all New Yorkers. It passed the state Assembly the last four years in a row — this year the bill has cleared the Assembly health committee and a majority in both state houses support it.
Many who argue against such single-payer systems have health insurance they’re happy (enough) with — probably provided by their employer. (In reality, it’s probably not that good unless they have a really good job that pays for really good insurance.)
The truth is that New York has some of the highest premiums in the country. And that high cost makes it much harder to start a business. Many small-business owners are unable to afford healthcare for themselves and their families, much less their employees.
As we transition out of the pandemic, guaranteeing coverage should help incentivize people to go back to work, so that businesses can get back up and running again.
The New York Health Act will cut billions of dollars in inefficiencies and profits that go to private health insurance companies. Out-of-pocket costs will go down for at least 90 percent of New Yorkers. And you’ll be able to choose your doctor, not an insurance company.
The New York Health Act isn’t just good for independent workers and entrepreneurs like myself. Studies show it would save governments tons of money. Calculations based on a RAND Corp. assessment of the act showed savings for Beacon of roughly $6.5 million for the school district and $2.5 million for the city (and a whopping $70 million for Dutchess County), based on 2019 budget numbers. That’s real money that could be better spent elsewhere.
Philipstown passed a resolution supporting the bill, as have municipalities and counties across the state, from the New York City Council to the Town of Caroline (population just over 3,000). It’d be great if Beacon did the same.
The pandemic and its economic crisis have further revealed a health care system that is off the rails and shown us how urgent it is to fix it.
It’s time. There are four weeks left in the current legislative session. Please call your state Assembly Member and state Senator and tell them you support the New York Health Act and ask them to pass it this year. Find tons of resources, including forms for contacting legislators, at nyhcampaign.org.
Scott Tillitt, Beacon