Assembly Members Disagree on Proposed Single-Payer Healthcare Bill
December 17, 2014
by Timothy W. Scee II
Special to Newzjunky.com
WATERTOWN, N.Y. —
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
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
“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
“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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