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Common Council throwing its weight behind statewide universal healthcare

Avery Schneider

Buffalo’s Common Council is throwing its support behind universal healthcare in New York. The council has chosen to back the passage of the New York Health Act, a bill calling for a single-payer healthcare system for all state residents.

Common Council Majority Leader David Rivera’s resolution to show support for the New York Health Act got unimpeded approval from his fellow council members on Tuesday.

While backing the legislation is symbolic, Rivera is touting the importance of the proposed statewide universal healthcare system because of its financial benefits. He compared it to current healthcare designs, which he said are profit driven and administratively top-heavy.

“We found out that by going with the New York State Health Act, there’s a savings of about $45 million,” said Rivera. “That’s an extraordinary savings that can go to make sure that everyone in New York State has health insurance.”

The expense of healthcare got other members of the Council talking, too, at Tuesday’s meeting. University District representative Rasheed Wyatt, who joined the resolution as a co-sponsor, said he’s proud he and his colleagues could see eye to eye on support for the New York Health Act. He noted the option of universal healthcare holds great importance because of often overlooked challenges with current healthcare models.

“One of the things that we kind of overlook is the financial impact on family,” said Wyatt. “There’s always stress when you can’t make sure that your family has the necessities they need for their healthcare. But the other things that happen after that when you have to look to the emergency room, and you’re not getting the proper healthcare, and how it affects your credit, and how it affects your financial standing – these are things that are overlooked that some people take for granted.”

Fillmore District representative David Franczyk said he’s amazed at the number of online crowd-funding campaigns he sees organized to help pay for medical treatments that, while life-saving, are considered above the basic levels covered by many healthcare plans.

“So when I see all these GoFundMe pages and these people are dying of cancer and they’ve got to raise $100,000, I say, ‘What are we doing in this country? How is this even permissible?”

This is the third year universal healthcare legislation has passed the state Assembly, but the bill is currently sitting in committee with the Senate. Rivera is urging state Senators to change that.

“It’s never gone to a vote,” Rivera pointed out. “Sometimes they just keep it in committee. Show your hand. Vote up or down. Call it to a vote. Let people know where you stand on health insurance.”

Though he hasn’t spoken to councils or residents in other municipalities outside of Buffalo, Rivera believes citizens across New York would largely be in favor of a single-payer system.

A copy of Rivera's resolution will be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and House Speaker Carl Heastie, as well as eight other members of the Senate and Assembly.

Credit Buffalo Common Council
Buffalo Common Council
Majority Leader David Rivera's resolution to show support for the New York Health Act

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.
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