State Senate To Host Joint Public Hearing

The state Senate and Assembly will host a joint public hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday on the New York Health Act.

Health care providers, patient advocates, health coverage providers, labor, employers and other stakeholders have been invited to speak about the New York Health Act and its specific provisions.

The New York Health Act, A.5248/S.3577, would replace traditional health insurance coverage and public health coverage programs with comprehensive single-payer health coverage, including long-term care, for all New Yorkers.

The program would be publicly funded, including existing federal support for Medicaid and Medicare. New Yorkers would no longer have to pay premiums, deductibles, co-pays, out-of network charges, or have limited provider networks. According to a news release from the state Assembly, Tuesday’s hearing is the first of a series of hearings that will provide an opportunity for comments and suggestions.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, has sponsored the New York Health Act for the past 30 years. With Democrats holding control of the governor’s office, Assembly and Senate leadership, many have thought Gottfried’s legislation stands a chance of being passed. It doesn’t appear that will happen this year, given that key legislative committees haven’t yet taken votes on the bill.

Last August, the Rand Corporation released its independent analysis of the New York Health Act and found that the plan could result in a 3.1 percent decrease in the state’s health care costs if a series of conditions and assumptions were met. Seema Verma, federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, shot down one of those conditions last fall by saying the federal government wouldn’t redirect all federal, state and Affordable Care Act tax credits to New York state.

And, while the study found that health care spending would decrease by 1 percent in 2022 and fall by about 3 percent by 2031 when compared to health care spending now, state spending on health care would balloon more than 500 percent from $34.1 billion to $172.5 billion in 2022.

Both Assemblymen Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, have voted against the New York Health Act during past legislative sessions. In November, Goodell outlined his opposition to the New York Health Act. In addition to the increase in state spending, one point of contention for Goodell is that employees would lose any cash bonus that employers sometime pay when an employee covered by a spouses insurance. Other problems Goodell cited are that health savings accounts would be eliminated, self-employed individuals would be forced to pay the entire cost of the new program and senior citizens would be forced to pay much higher taxes on their 401k withdrawals and on any earnings from their retirement accounts.

Goodell also said the New York Health Act would mean New York residents who work in neighboring states would be forced to pay the full cost even though they might be covered by their out-of-state employer’s insurance. Unemployed out-of-state residents with expensive health needs could move to New York because they would become immediately eligible for full coverage, meaning cost assumptions upon which legislators are basing their votes might not be accurate. Since the program is paid by payroll and income taxes, a person who moves to New York state without any income would pay nothing for their health care.

Goodell also said estimates show 175,000 people in the private insurance industry would lose their jobs. In addition, higher paying employers would try to relocate jobs to more competitive states because the payroll tax used to fund the program penalizes higher paying employers and subsidizes lower paying employers.

“Instead of imposing a socialist government monopoly on health care that would devastate New York residents and businesses, we should cut the cost of health insurance by reducing health care taxes, increasing consumer choice, and fostering more private sector competition,” Goodell said at the time.