NNY Assembly Members Disagree on Proposed Single-Payer Healthcare Bill

December 17, 2014

by Timothy W. Scee II
Special to Newzjunky.com

    Local New York State Assembly members have mixed reactions to renewed efforts by a downstate assemblyman to create a publicly-funded healthcare system for all state residents with no out-of-pocket costs, premiums or co-payments.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, began an upstate tour earlier this month in an effort to to gain public support for his bill that would allow the state to opt out of programs set forth by the federal Affordable Care Act and instead implement its own single-payer, universal healthcare system for residents. 

The bill, originally passed by the Assembly in 1992, failed to garner support of the state Senate and governor at the time.  

Democrat Addie J. Russell, who represents the state’s 116th Assembly District, co-sponsored the bill in the past and believes such a measure would help improve residents’ ability to maintain health coverage and keep in line with current medical reimbursement trends. 

“I think it really gets at the systemic problems in our healthcare systems,” Mrs. Russell said. “Even with the reforms that have been put in place, I’m already seeing gaps where they really aren’t serving everyone the best that they can.”

Under Mr. Gottfried’s plan, the resources to fund the Medicaid program would shift from counties and property taxes to the state level and funding for the public healthcare system would come from a payroll tax. 

The Assemblywoman said such a system would be a win-win for healthcare providers and consumers, including northern New York farmers, whom she said can struggle the most.

“Because their business and family income is all the same, and because they don’t show a profit, their only option is to enroll in the Medicaid program,” Mrs. Russell said.  

Farmers who receive Medicaid, as a result, could face liens against their property and assets, she noted.

A universal healthcare system could also help consumers who start new jobs or are in between jobs.

“If you changed your job, then you would very likely lose your health insurance,” she said. “By going to this different type of health insurance plan, you’re not going to lose your health insurance - it stays with you.”

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, however, said he has doubts that the bill could be properly funded and will not support the bill when it is expected to come before the Assembly floor in January when lawmakers return to Albany.

“The sponsor says that if we use the publicly-funded federal funds that we now receive for Medicare and Medicaid, combined with what the state is funding for these programs, that would be a sufficient way to pay for that,” he said. “I don’t believe that.”

Mr. Blankenbush said Mr. Gottfried and the bill’s co-sponsors fail to take into account the nearly $4.5 billion in Affordable Care Act taxes that the state is currently assessed for on health insurance and programs funded through those taxes. 

“The proposal now resumes that the providers will accept a reimbursement at government-level rates,” he said. “In reality though, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for providers to accept Medicare rates today.”

The assemblyman added his belief that the bill is a “distraction” in the midst of Affordable Care Act implementations that began earlier this year. 

“When we’re just implementing the federal Affordable Care Act, New York is in the midst of the most significant health care reform since the adoption of Medicare and Medicaid,” he said. “I just don’t believe that this act does what it says it will do in the long run and I just won’t be supporting it.”

Mr. Gottfried’s tour kicked off Dec. 4 with a public hearing in Syracuse and continues this month with hearings in Rochester, Buffalo, New York City, Mineola and Albany. 

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