Cold Spring Punts on New York Health Act

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Support for universal health care, but not proposed bill

The Cold Spring Village Board at its March 9 meeting passed a resolution in support of universal health care in New York — but it stopped short of endorsing the New York Health Act being considered by the state Legislature.

If passed, the bill, first introduced in 1992, would pay for health care for all New York residents through a combination of federal funds the state receives from Medicare and Medicaid and a progressively graduated tax on income from wages and investments.

When Cold Spring resident Jeff Mikkelson, a co-founder of Hudson Valley Demands New York Health, addressed the Village Board in January, he asked trustees to adopt a resolution he provided, endorsing the bill which, he said, would save Cold Spring $280,000 annually, Philipstown $800,000, the Haldane school district $1.6 million and Putnam County $21 million.

The resolution passed by the Village Board on March 9 didn’t include the potential savings and omitted other elements of Mikkelson’s proposed language.

Before the vote, Trustee Eliza Starbuck objected to the changes. “I don’t feel this is what the public asked us to do,” she said.  “We were asked to support the enactment of the New York Health Act and we’ve said everything but that” in the revised resolution.

Starbuck added that the resolution doesn’t “do anything to move the New York Health Act forward.”

Trustee Joe Curto expressed doubt about the New York Health Act as written.

“I have concerns about New York State running something of that magnitude,” he said. “I also have concerns about the costs, which are not defined as of yet.”

Trustee Tweeps Woods also spoke in support of the revised resolution. “The fact that we are saying we support this [bill] being brought forward and worked on is very reasonable.”

Mayor Kathleen Foley said the board had consulted with the village treasurer, who administers health care for employees and retirees, and who expressed doubts about how the bill would affect retirees.

Foley said she is “broadly in support of universal health care,” which she said works well in Massachusetts.

However, the mayor had asked that references to the Haldane Central School District be removed. “We should not be making reference to Haldane in a village resolution,” she said.  She also felt the estimates of village savings, compiled by an advocacy organization, and not the village, were inappropriate and so asked that reference to the bill having value to all village residents be removed.

“I don’t know that it has value to every resident,” she said.

Regarding the revisions to Mikkelson’s proposed language, the mayor commented: “Frankly, this is how the sausage gets made; we put forward an idea, we talk it through and we find something we can agree on.

“We are asking the state to enact a universal health care system as proposed,” Foley said.  “I think we’ve reached a good compromise.”

The resolution passed, 4-1, with Starbuck casting the lone nay vote.

During the public comment period, Mikkelson said that several residents had written letters to the board in support of his original resolution, 75 people had signed a petition and the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce board had voted unanimously in support of it.

Mikkelson said it was wrong to remove the reference to the “substantial savings” to the village outlined in numerous studies over the years, “even if you weren’t willing to commit to a [specific] number.”

The approved resolution is essentially “an endorsement of the status quo,” he said.  “You might as well pass a resolution in support of the Hudson River continuing to flow.”

He asked the board to consider passing an additional resolution in support of the New York Health Act, as Philipstown and other municipalities have.

Cold Spring resident and business owner Rebeca Ramirez expressed support for Mikkelson and Starbuck.

“I’m disappointed [Trustee] Cathryn Fadde asked if the proposed New York Health Act is like the system used in Massachusetts,” she said, “If one trustee doesn’t know for sure what the bill is comparable to, maybe more [people] than her didn’t have the time.”

Ramirez echoed Mikkelson’s request for a resolution supporting the New York Health Act. “People in Cold Spring support this bill; it’s revolutionary and practical,” she said.

While Foley praised the amount of community support Ramirez and others had developed for the bill, she stuck to the decision to revise Mikkelson’s proposed resolution.

“This board approved a resolution that we felt we could approve,” she said. “Now it goes to the state and that’s where this decision gets made.”

In other business …

■ The tentative 2022-23 budget will be posted on the village website on Monday (March 21) and a public hearing is scheduled for April 13.
■ The village plans to issue residential parking permits in the spring and summer and introduce metered parking on Main Street in the fall.
■ The owner of the River Rose proposed docking the Newburgh-based cruise boat at Dockside Park from May through November for special events. Foley said she did not believe Cold Spring was an appropriate location.
■ Royal Carting will deliver trash and recycling containers to residents in early April and the village will announce a location for disposal of the current containers.
■ Code Enforcement Officer Charlotte Mountain resigned to take a full-time supervisory position with the City of Newburgh. The village will seek help from the Philipstown Building Department until the position can be filled.
■ Cold Spring Police Department officers responded to 48 calls for service in February and issued 19 parking and 14 traffic tickets. One arrest was made under the Mental Health Act, which enables emergency hospitalization for observation and treatment. With the board, Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke discussed the need for security cameras in vandalism-prone areas, such as the dock, Mayor’s Park and the pedestrian tunnel.
■ The Cold Spring Fire Co. answered 19 calls in February, including five activated fire alarms, two calls to assist emergency medical services, the pumping of a flooded home, a motor vehicle crash, an elevator rescue and an indoor smoke odor. CSFC also answered eight mutual-aid requests from the Garrison and North Highlands fire companies, including for chimney fires, motor vehicle crashes, smoke investigations and two hiker rescues.
■ The Recreation Commission’s special events coordinator job description is posted at coldspringny.gov. The commission is working with Owen Carmicino on his Eagle Scout project to erect a sign at the Sept. 11 Memorial at McConville Park. The Boy Scouts will help with $3,000 in fundraising for the project.
■ The board approved the sale of a 665-square-foot strip of village-owned land at 45 Main St. to the owners of the Riverview Restaurant at a cost of $4.65 per square foot, a 65-cent increase over the amount charged in recent years for similar purchases.
■ It also approved the Putnam County Wine and Food Festival, to be held at Mayor’s Park on Aug. 6 and 7.

4 thoughts on “Cold Spring Punts on New York Health Act

  1. The Cold Spring Village Board missed an opportunity to show meaningful support for universal health care last week when it declined to endorse the New York Health Act, a bill that would guarantee comprehensive healthcare to all New Yorkers while lowering health care costs for the vast majority of us and saving the village hundreds of thousands every year.

    Dozens of local residents, including public officials, health care professionals and community, faith and business leaders, signed a petition in support of a resolution endorsing the bill. Several community members wrote letters to the village, and the board of the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce unanimously endorsed the resolution, apparently to no avail.

    The village did pass a resolution, but one that was so watered-down that the one trustee who openly opposes the legislation (Joe Curto) voted for it, while the one trustee who has shown steadfast support (Eliza Starbuck) was unable to do so. The village resolution merely asks the state Legislature to give the bill “further consideration.” The NY Health Act has been under consideration for 30 years; it has undergone multiple rounds of amendments, public hearings and rigorous independent analysis. It recently gained majority co-sponsorship in both state houses and is currently under active consideration. Urging lawmakers to give the bill “further consideration” is to take no stand at all.

    I respectfully disagree with the mayor’s assertion that the fact that the bill has been around for so long means there must be something wrong with it. It’s taken so long to get to this point because health insurance and pharmaceutical companies have enormous influence over our political and media ecosystem, perpetuating a dysfunctional and inhumane system that costs twice as much as any country in the world and produces much worse results. The only thing that will overcome this inertia is elected leaders having the moral courage to enact something better. Local resolutions do have an impact on state policy, which is why 10 municipalities in the Hudson Valley, including Philipstown, have already passed resolutions in support of the NY Health Act. I therefore urge the Board to pass a second resolution that clearly endorses it.

  2. I am disappointed in the Cold Spring Village Board’s decision not to pass a resolution supporting the New York Health Act. It seems that there is a current of skepticism among certain board members regarding the bill’s true cost. I urge anyone with doubts about the bill’s financial savings to consult the Campaign for New York Health website or the Rand Corporation’s “Assessment of the New York Health Act,” for a more objective analysis. Both resources demonstrate that, if passed into law, the bill will reduce total health care spending. Finances aside, even if the New York Health Act did not save money, I would still support it because it will save lives. I respectfully ask that the Village Board reconsider their position on the proposed legislation.

  3. The Cold Spring Village Board is wise to tread cautiously regarding this legislation.

    Contrary to statements made during the board meeting, there’s no guarantee the federal government will give all Medicare and Medicaid funds, currently provided to New York residents, to this new state entity. Also, a new payroll tax would be implemented. As the legislation is written, the NYS Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) would be eliminated -– the very program that Cold Spring employees and its retirees are enrolled in. Retires on Medicare would see that abolished as well. And what about retirees living or traveling out of state? Will other states accept this new state-run coverage?

    There’s too much uncertainty and too many questions left unanswered. The Retired Public Employees Association, which represents the interest of nearly 500,000 New York State and local government retirees, has no confidence in the state to implement an undertaking of this magnitude and cost. Our health and well-being is at stake, and that’s too big a risk to take.

    Farrell is executive director of the Retired Public Employees Association.

  4. Like so many people in the Highlands, during the pandemic my family saw our income diminish and our expenses go up. In April 2020, my husband was diagnosed with high blood pressure and type two diabetes, both comorbidities for COVID. Thanks to New York State stepping up to expand the coverage of the Essential Plan, our premiums were eliminated, almost all of our co-pays were waived and we now get mental health, dental and eye care covered too. This has been a real blessing, but why did it take a pandemic and us slipping almost into poverty to finally get our healthcare needs met?

    Now as we emerge from the darkest days of the pandemic, we are faced with a dilemma: Should we aim to get higher paying jobs that will help us afford our mortgage and groceries, but kick us off of our Essential Plan? Or should we stay where we are, scraping by, spending up our credit cards, but at least knowing that our ongoing healthcare needs are covered, and we are safe from astronomical medical debt? This is not a choice we should be having to make, but it is the reality for the millions of people in the deteriorating American middle class.

    The New York Health Act [A6058/S5474], a bill that has been refined over thirty years, could make healthcare a right in New York State by establishing a universal, single-payer, public health program to finance comprehensive health coverage for everyone who works or lives in New York. It would eliminate financial barriers to care including future medical debt and bankruptcies.

    We can’t afford the health care system that we have now, with its corporate mandate to put profits over people. We need a new system that firmly establishes healthcare as a human right and ensures that no one is left behind to languish in poverty, or die from lack of healthcare. Call your state representatives today and urge them to pass the New York Health Act in this legislative session!