Advocate says it would save village $280,000 annually

Jeff Mikkelson feels 30 years is enough. The New York Health Act, which proposes a retooling of how health care is provided in the state, was introduced in the state Legislature in 1992 but has never garnered the support needed for passage. 

But the Cold Spring resident, addressing the Village Board during its meeting on Wednesday (Jan. 26), said the bill “has picked up a lot of steam.” 

“Last year it was introduced with majority support for the first time in both the Assembly and the Senate,” he said. While it didn’t come up for a vote in 2021, “we have an excellent chance of passing it this year.”

Mikkelson, who is a co-founder of Hudson Valley Demands New York Health, wants the village to pass a resolution in support of the bill, an action he said has been taken by 22 municipalities, including Philipstown. 

Before commenting on the bill, Mikkelson pointed to a 2018 study that showed half of New York residents have skipped or delayed medical treatment because of the cost. Another study that appeared in 2020 in The Lancet estimated a single-payer health care system would save 68,000 lives annually in the U.S. and a third study, from 2019, found that 67 percent of bankruptcies were tied to high medical bills or time lost from work. 

“These things are unheard of in the rest of the industrialized world,” Mikkelson said. 

If enacted, the bill would finance health care through a combination of federal funds that the state receives for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, along with a progressively graduated tax on income from wages and investments. 

“The first $25,000 of income would be exempt from the tax, and for seniors the first $50,000 is exempt,” Mikkelson said. Other tax brackets would be steeply progressive, with the highest earners paying the most. 

Mikkelson estimated the savings for local government would be $280,000 for Cold Spring, $800,000 for Philipstown, $1.6 million for the Haldane school district and $21 million for Putnam County. 

“Every time a municipality passes a resolution like the one I’m asking you to consider, it makes that outcome more likely,” he said. 

Trustee Joe Curto said he agreed with the premise of the bill “1,000 percent,” describing the health care system as “a mess.” But, he added: “I’m not sure, at this point, that is the solution. It’s pretty complicated, a complete revamping of the state economy and tax code.” 

The three members of the board (Mayor Kathleen Foley and Trustee Cathryn Fadde were absent) declined to immediately take up the resolution. 

“It’s a lot to take in,” said Trustee Tweeps Phillips Woods. “We will digest the information you’ve given us, talk about it, and figure out what the next steps will be.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Turton, who has been a reporter for The Current since its founding in 2010, moved to Philipstown from his native Ontario in 1998. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Cold Spring government, features

6 replies on “Cold Spring Asked to Endorse NY Health Act”

  1. New York has a historic opportunity to lead the country to universal healthcare by passing the New York Health Act in 2022. Cold Spring could play a role in making that happen by passing a resolution in support of the bill, which would guarantee comprehensive coverage to every New Yorker, regardless of age, income or employment status, with no premiums, copays, deductibles or network restrictions. Not only would Cold Spring (and every municipality in NY) save tons of money, which could be passed on to residents in the form of lower taxes and/or enhanced public services, independent studies have shown that up to 98% of New Yorkers would spend less on healthcare than they do now, for much better coverage! This only seems like a crazy fantasy until you realize that it’s how most of the rest of the industrialized world does it. We can pass the bill this year, if we have the moral courage and political will to make it happen.

  2. I wholeheartedly support the New York Health Act (NYHA) and strongly encourage the Village Board to adopt the resolution in support of the bill. The NYHA represents the most fiscally responsible, practical, and humane plan to fix our state’s broken healthcare system. The bill will lower property taxes because local governments will no longer need to pay for Medicaid and expensive healthcare plans for municipal employees.

    Most importantly, this plan will save lives and result in a net reduction in suffering across our society. New York state has already proven itself a leader in combatting the climate crisis with the passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection act. The New York Health Act is now an historic opportunity for New York to take the lead in addressing our country’s health crisis.

  3. If the NY Health Act passed it would benefit my family and our family-owned and operated small business. How?

    It would:

    1) Provide us with universal medical plus dental care (something that the Affordable Care Act wasn’t able to achieve);

    2) Allow my husband and I to see the doctors that we want, instead of only the ones that our insurance offers (I had to leave my Ob/Gyn who I was with for over a decade as well as my general practitioner and my husband had to leave his gastroenterologist with our current health insurance provider);

    3) Eliminate all of my out-of-pocket medical expenses. Currently, I am paying out-of-pocket for physical therapy, my son’s therapist and some of my husband’s gastro specialists. Our medical bills are just rising and still left unpaid because we just can’t get to them with our limited resources during this pandemic;

    4) Allow me to see a doctor when I want because I won’t be thinking that I can’t afford it. (I currently avoid going to the doctor because I do not want more medical bills even though I need more physical therapy for my plantar fasciitis;

    5) Not have to worry about how I am going to reach my $5,000 deductible (my husband and I’s combined deductible comes to $10,000).

    My business would certainly benefit from this bill in a variety of ways, but one significant way is that it would give me more time to spend on my business. I currently spend anywhere from 1 to 4 hours a month on the phone with my health insurance companies appealing for them to cover certain medical expenses or fix mistakes they made. It would also help improve the health care for my staff, who I truly care about. And I am willing to pay into that for sure.

    So much of our history’s greatest accomplishments have started with activism. And not enough people know that Medicare and Medicaid, two of our best programs/services came from activism and from doctors of color uniting for improve healthcare in America. This long pandemic shows that it is clearly the time to pass the New York Health Act and cover all New Yorkers.

    This remarkable bill has been worked on for over 30 years and so many leaders have helped shape it to work for many, not just some. With recent changes to the bill with feedback from unions, it is finally where it needs to be.

    I am beyond grateful to the resident-led group, Hudson Valley Demands NY Health, and for Mikkelson for helping to heighten the level of visibility of this revolutionary but practical bill. I hope that our trustees and Mayor Foley are able to carve the time and see all the reasons why this bill makes sense for not just Cold Spring Village, but for all New Yorkers (yes, including all of our seniors who rely on Medicare and Medicaid). There is bipartisan support for the New York Health Act in Philipstown and I hope that they will see that.

  4. The Tax Foundation ranks New York as the worst state in the nation for the state and local tax burden it imposes on individuals; by comparison, Florida is No. 34. The Tax Policy Institute ranks New York third worst in state and local revenue as a percentage of personal income; Florida is No. 50.

    New York wrings so much money from taxpayers because it spends so much money. Its fiscal 2021-22 budget provides for $212 billion in spending. By contrast, the fiscal year 2021-22 budget for Florida, which has a population that is nearly 3 million, or about 15 percent, larger than New York’s, provides for only $97 billion in spending, which is 54 percent less than New York’s spending.

    Judging from how they vote with their feet, New York residents do not appear to be getting commensurate value for their state’s gargantuan spending. In 2014, Florida displaced New York as the third most populous state. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in both absolute and percentage terms, New York’s population drop in 2019-20 was the biggest among 16 states. By contrast, Florida’s population was up 241,256, or 1.12 percent.

    Most recently, in her Jan. 5 State of the State Address, Gov. Kathy Hochul declared: “We need to take a hard look in the mirror and deal with harsh realities, like the fact that 300,000 New Yorkers left our state last year. That’s the steepest population drop of ANY State in the nation, an alarm bell that cannot be ignored.”

    Given that (1) New Yorkers already bear a crushing tax burden, and (2) New York has been hemorrhaging population at an alarming rate, how could anyone credibly ignore that “alarm bell,” and argue that it makes sense to enact a law that will pile additional, “steeply progressive” taxes on New York residents?

  5. The comments on this article have been excellent, and I hope The Current publishes some of them in the next issue. I’d like to address the most recent, which argues that wealthy New Yorkers are overtaxed, and that changing the way we pay for health care will drive them out of the state.

    I understand why the Tax Foundation, a libertarian think tank founded and funded by some of the world’s largest corporations and wealthiest individuals, considers New York an overtaxed state and promotes the view that increasing taxes on the wealthy will cause them to migrate, but there is little or no evidence that this actually happens. In fact, the Tax Flight Myth has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked; the wealthy, it seems, live wherever they want, for the simple reason that they can afford to.

    Where I agree is that lower- and middle-income New Yorkers are overtaxed and struggling to stay afloat in a state with an extremely high cost of living, which might help explain why the state has lost population in recent years. A driving factor is that much of our tax system is deeply regressive—property taxes, for example, hit low- and middle-income homeowners much harder than the wealthy. Thankfully, one of the many economic arguments for passing the New York Health Act is that it will lead to lower property taxes, because counties will no longer be required to contribute toward Medicaid, and because local governments will save on healthcare expenses.

    Perhaps the most onerous tax on ordinary New Yorkers is the regressive tax we pay in the form of health care premiums, copays and deductibles. We spend twice as much per capita on health care as people in peer countries, thanks, in part, to our grossly inefficient and wasteful private insurance system, which spends approximately 17 percent on administrative costs (billing, sales, marketing, executive salaries) compared to between 2 and 5 percent for public programs like Medicare and Medicaid. This inefficiency is not only bad for individuals but bad for the economy, which is why the RAND Corporation concluded in 2018 that the vast majority of New Yorkers would spend less under the New York Health Act, that it would save the state billions, that it would contribute to economic growth, and that it would lead to a net gain of 150,000 jobs.

    The ones who do profit from the status quo, of course, have every reason to resist change. Our current system works great for insurance and pharmaceutical executives, bankruptcy lawyers — as this article notes, two-thirds of bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical bills — and for the very wealthy, who essentially have free health care as a proportion of their income thanks to the regressive way we pay for health care. This only makes sense, however, if we consider health care a luxury commodity, like a sports car, rather than a public good, like schools and roads. Guaranteeing comprehensive health care for all while paying for it in a more efficient and progressive way would be a win for ordinary New Yorkers, for public health and for the economy. It may even persuade some of those residents we lost in recent years to come back to live in New York.

  6. Passage of the NY Health Act is such an obvious benefit that it beggars the imagination that anyone beyond Big Pharma and Big Health Care corporations could oppose it. It’s not complicated; it’s not expensive; it’s not discriminatory. What is complicated is what we are currently living under. Don’t be confused: the health insurance industry’s purpose is to make money for their investors, not to make payments for our life-long health needs.

    I am a retired advance practice nurse now living in Cold Spring. Since I worked in the public sector for my entire health provider career, at Bellevue Hospital Center in NYC, I have the incredible advantage of having superb so-called Health Insurance. Even so, I must meet co-pays and annual deductibles. Most workers, active or retired, bear a much larger financial burden and are severely restricted in access to providers and facilities of their choice.

    At Bellevue, the first public hospital in the US, while directing the Pain Management Service I saw the best and the worst of payment systems for my patients. Medicare and Medicaid, public payment systems, allowed us to provide our complex patients with a whole range of interventions proposed by our multi-disciplinary team. However, if the patient had private insurance, I saw the worst face of our payment system. Hours spent on the phone, often with insurance company clerks whose job it was to deny the prescribed care. More hours duplicating explanatory letters, imaging studies, patient history to “justify” to the nay-saying company employee. This is madness.

    Let’s pass the NY Health Act for all New Yorkers.

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