Public Exchanges

Single-Payer Bill Takes Yet Another Bow in NY

by: Bruce Shutan
February 3, 2014

At a time when HIX critics in Red States continue to pummel the exchanges and Blue State proponents adopt a defensive posture, there’s actually a plan afoot to establish a statewide single-payer health plan – albeit in one of the nation’s most liberal regions.

It’s the brainchild of Richard N. Gottfried, chairman of the New York State Assembly Health Committee and author of the New York Health Plan (A.5389), which is sponsored in the State Senate by Bill Perkins (S.2078).

“The exchanges are complicated because the system requires means-testing to see who is eligible for Medicaid or subsidies, and then requires people to select from multiple plans,” Gottfried argued in a recent letter to the editor in The New York Times. “We could cover everyone, provide better coverage and save billions through publicly sponsored, single-payer health coverage, like an improved version of Medicare for everyone – and no insurance companies.”

“My understanding is that Assemblyman Gottfried submits this bill every year, and I don’t think we are any closer to passing it,” says Laurel Pickering, president and CEO of the Northeast Business Group on Health. The legislation was first introduced in 1999 and every year thereafter, according to the New York Senate Open Legislation Service.

The Business Council of New York State issued a statement strongly opposing the legislation, which it dismissed as a “socialized health care system” that would “create a parallel income tax structure with no set tax rates or tax limits.”

The group warned that “a significant new payroll tax” (8% on employers, 2% on employees and 10% on the self-employed, along with additional surcharges on other taxable income) amounts to poor economic and health policy in a state where the cost of doing business is already high. It further noted a lack of “fiscal or economic impact assessments, or any other evidence of a serious assessment of its costs and benefits.”

Another pointed criticism was that most group health insurance coverage across the state would be deemed illegal, eliminating “an entire industry sector in New York,” as well as “coverage choice and options for the vast majority of New Yorkers.”

In an explanation of his bill, Gottfried defended it as “a business-friendly solution” that actually decreases costs by eliminating a need for employer-provided coverage. “That would make New York dramatically more job-friendly, especially for small businesses, start-ups and low-margin businesses, while offering better and more secure coverage to every New Yorker,” he wrote.

Shutan is a Los Angeles freelance writer

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