Some outstanding news from Albany.
Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried who has regularly introduced a Medicare-for-all single-payer bill since 1992 has reason to smile today. The Albany Times Union has the breaking details.
The state Assembly approved on Wednesday evening a bill that would create a single-payer health system in New York.There's a lot to celebrate here. Many single-payer advocates were dispirited following the death of Vermont's much-anticipated single-payer plan. So, seeing this kind of progress in another state is a big deal. And seeing this kind of progress in a big state is an even bigger deal.
The bill passed 89-47.
As my colleague Claire Hughes reported this morning, the vote is the first to occur on the proposal, which Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried has introduced annually for years, since 1992.
“New Yorkers deserve better,” Gottfried said in a statement. “We should be able to go to the doctor when we need to, without worrying whether we can afford it. We should choose our doctors and hospitals without worrying about network restrictions. We deserve health coverage for all of us, paid for based on our ability to pay, not what the market will bear. I’m proud the Assembly has passed the New York Health Act, and I look forward to working with a great community of advocates including medical professionals, medical students, organized labor, and Senate sponsor Bill Perkins, to enact it into law.”
Why? Well, health insurers today don't do much insuring of health risk, but they do a lot of administrating of employer health benefits. A small state like Vermont wouldn't have taken a big chunk of, say, Aetna's business away from them. However, a large state like New York "going single-payer" would put a massive dent in not only the marginally-profitable individual insurance business (i.e. Affordable Care Act plans and those purchased outside the state exchange), but also in the extremely lucrative -- and highly-profitable -- business of administering benefits for medium- and large-sized businesses that self-insure (i.e. they pay the medical bills, but outsource claims administration to Aetna or Cigna or Anthem) and that, were a state-plan passed into law, might be very keen to let their employees trade Aetna for the single-payer plan. If a few large states in America were to cut out the parasitical middle-men that are private insurers, it would be tough for them to sustain their business model in Mississippi and Wyoming -- in other words, they might take their ball and go home.
Look at how the health insurance lobby responded to the threat of this bill. (Note their laughable attempt to claim they engage in the work of "providing care.")
The Health Plan Association, which represents insurance companies, has opposed it; its CEO, Paul Macielak, said at an Assembly hearing in January that the act would dissolve the current private health care industry, which has a proven record for providing care.But, wait a second, don't get too excited, folks. The sad news is that the "New York Health Act" is unlikely to pass New York's GOP-dominated Senate. Or, even if it did, could you imagine "Democrat" Andrew Cuomo signing it into law? (Health care policy wonks may remember that super-progressive Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy killed his state's public option -- SustiNet -- following nasty threats from Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini.)
Nevertheless, the fact that this single-payer bill got as far as it did is strong testimony to the evolving health care policy landscape in the United States. Progressive leaders know that the Affordable Care Act is a highly-problematic health care "starter home" and we must continue pushing for true universal health care.
The success of this single-payer bill is also a reminder that Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders' pledge to implement a Medicare-for-all single-payer system is hardly a radical proposition. Indeed, it is a very serious one worthy of our attention, as this exciting news from New York's State Assembly so clearly demonstrates.