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Public argues pros and cons of universal healthcare

Ashley Hirtzel

Could healthcare become universal for all New Yorkers? The State Assembly held a hearing on the suggested New York Health Act in Buffalo Wednesday.

Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried is sponsoring legislation that would create a statewide universal single-payer healthcare system.  It would provide publicly funded coverage for state residents.

“You would go to the doctors and hospitals that you choose. The New York Health Act would pay the bill. You would not be paying a premium. There would be no deductibles, no co-pays, and no restrictive provider networks so no out of network charges. And instead of us paying what’s really a regressive tax to insurance companies in premiums and deductibles. The New York Health Act would be funded by broad based assessments that are based on ability to pay,” said Gottfried.

Local medical professionals, patients, and area leaders argued their views during the hearing. Tasha Moore says she will be losing her Medicaid coverage at the end of this month.

“What if something were to happen to me or my son after the first of the month? What am I supposed to do? So, eventually affordable healthcare for me is $120 a month. Just for me. That’s not affordable for me, because I have a lot of other bills to pay and I only make $12 an hour,” said Moore.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO
Local medical professionals, patients, and area leaders argued their views during the hearing.

Advocates claim the bill would save the state over $20 billion a year by not having to pay for insurance company personnel and profits. But, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership “strongly opposes” universal healthcare. Public Relations Specialist Kailey St. George says the plan would likely cost many jobs.

“This bill does not take into consideration the high costs associated with the proposed assessments needed to create the New York Health Trust Fund, nor does it consider the positive economic impact current health plans have on New York’s economy, providing tens of thousands of jobs, paying property and payroll taxes, and investing in the communities in which they reside. It also does not consider the access to quality care provided by current health plans, something that would be threatened after yet another health care overhaul in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, which is still in implementation,” said St. George.

“Current health plans in New York State consistently provide quality health care to their members and work with their clients on managed care with a prevention focus, improving members overall health while containing costs.”      

The Buffalo hearing was the second to be held statewide. Four more meetings will take place before lawmakers vote on the bill.