In the midst of a national debate over the future of health care, North Forkers for the Common Good will sponsor a teach-in and community discussion on the proposed New York Health Act on Thursday, March 23 at 7 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Southold at 53100 Main Road in Southold.
The teach-in and discussion will be led by Martha Livingston, PhD. and Michael Zweig, PhD.
The proposed New York Health Act’s aim is to cover all New York residents, without deductibles, while bringing down the cost of health care in the state by eliminating profits for insurance companies, focusing on preventative care and simplifying the billing system. The sponsors of the New York Health Act hope to lower health care costs by more than 15 percent.
The legislation, State Assembly bill A. 4738, sponsored by Richard N. Gottfried, would create a universal single-payer health care system – Medicare for all – in the state. An earlier version of the Assembly bill was passed last June. The companion New York State Senate bill, S. 4840, is being considered in the Senate’s Health Committee.
The bulk of the funding would be raised through a progressive payroll tax, with employers contributing 80 percent and employees contributing the remaining 20 percent. Those earning less than $25,000 would be exempt from the payroll tax, as would be their employers.
According to Abigail Field, an independent contractor and attorney from Cutchogue who buys her insurance through the Affordable Care Act, “My four-person family pays $19,000 a year to get a narrow network plan with no deductible. That’s not affordable; it’s our biggest bill after the mortgage. We buy that plan because I have a genetically-based pre-existing condition that at any time could require a hospital visit. I had one this past January. As a result, high deductible plans pose too high a risk of a massive all-at-once bill. My family and I need another way forward.”
“Medicare for all would be a big step toward changing the mentality of Americans, said Natasha Green, a millennial who lives and works on the North Fork. “It is an important step toward the ‘moral economy’ Bernie Sanders had described and one we should be working towards.”
Dr. Zweig believes passage of the New York Health Act makes sense on many levels.
“We know the current Medicare program provides excellent coverage for seniors and is cost effective,” he said. “Medicare for all would cover everyone, and when everyone is covered, it benefits us all. Although people will be paying an increased payroll tax, this would be significantly less costly than continually rising insurance premiums. It will also prevent very sick people who are uninsured from delaying care until a time when they can no longer manage their illness and when care can be very expensive — the cost of which is absorbed by us all.”
Martha Livingston, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of the Public Health department at SUNY Old Westbury, Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the New York Metro chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Public Health Policy, and of the Steering Committee of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer Health Care, and a serious New York Mets fan.
Michael Zweig, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus and Former Director at the Center for Study of Working Class Life, Department of Economics, Stony Brook University. He is the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Active in his union, United University Professions (AFT Local 2190), Michael represented 35,000 faculty and professional staff throughout SUNY and was elected to two terms on its state executive board. He lives in Peconic and is a long-time activist on the North Fork.