New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced Friday that he voted to pass the New York Health Act, landmark legislation that would create a single-payer health insurance plan, dubbed “Medicare for All,” designed to ensure all New Yorkers have affordable health care coverage.
The bill, A.4738-A, passed the State Assembly on Thursday, June 14 in a 91 to 46 vote.
North Fork Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo voted against the measure.
The Assembly had also passed the New York Health Act in 2017, but a companion State Senate bill, S.4840, has been under consideration by the Senate Health Committee since February.
“We cannot allow New Yorkers to face the life-or-death consequences of skyrocketing premiums and insufficient health coverage,” said Assemblyman Thiele. “If we truly believe that access to health care is a human right, then a single-payer system is the best way forward.”
The New York Health Act would establish a universal health care system within the state, known as New York Health. All residents, regardless of wealth, income, age or pre-existing condition, would be eligible to enroll, and every enrollee would have access to the full range of doctors and service providers offered. The plan would provide comprehensive inpatient and outpatient care, primary and preventive care, maternity care, prescription drug costs, laboratory testing, rehabilitative care and dental, vision and hearing care.
Out-of-state health care would also be covered, both when the need for services arises during travel and when there is a clinical reason to receive care outside the state.
The system would be paid for through a progressive payroll tax that advocates say will make up a substantially smaller percentage of a family’s income than they currently spend on health care.
The payroll tax would be paid for 80 percent by the employer and 20 percent by the employee. Non-wage income would also be taxed, but pensions and social security income would not.
People who make less than $25,000 per year would not be taxed, and people who make $25,000 per year would pay 10 percent of their income into the health care system, but they would not have to pay insurance premiums, deductibles or copays.
Care providers and coordinators would be fully paid by New York Health, with no copays, deductibles or other charges to patients.
This system is designed to eliminate the so-called ‘regressive tax’ of premiums, copays and deductibles that is currently imposed on patients.
Employers would no longer be responsible for paying premiums and they would also no longer have to sign contracts with insurance companies and deal with the administration of health plans.
Proponents of the plan also believe it will benefit small businesses, which wouldn’t be forced to compete with the health plans offered by their large corporate competitors.
State funding would be combined with federal funds that are currently received by the state for Medicare, Medicaid and Child Health Plus, to create the New York Health Trust Fund. The state would also seek federal waivers that will allow New York to completely fold those programs into New York Health.
Mr. Thiele noted that the local share of Medicaid funding would be ended, offering major property tax relief for New Yorkers.
“Even for New Yorkers with insurance coverage, an illness or hospitalization can lead to nearly insurmountable personal debt and, in some cases, bankruptcy,” said Mr. Thiele. “New York Health will ensure New Yorkers no longer have to fear being turned down because of a pre-existing condition or forgo critical medical care because of an inability to pay.”
Assemblyman Palumbo was not immediately available for comment.