NY Lawmaker Should Abandon Crusade For Single Payer Health Care

Before Democrats in the state Assembly and Senate begin writing checks for single payer health care in New York state that the state has no way of cashing, they need to listen to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Empire Center for New York Policy.

Cuomo is lobbying President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats to change the 2017 federal tax bill to restore State and Local Tax Deductions that Cuomo says are the reason state personal income taxes are coming in $2.3 billion less than projected. When asked earlier this week about state Assemblyman Richard Gottfried’s New York Health Act, Cuomo told NPR’s Karen Dewitt that the federal government would have to take on single payer because states haven’t been able to afford such a plan on their own. The governor also doubted the state could afford any action on single payer health care given its existing revenue shortfall.

Democrats should also hold off any consideration of Gottfried’s latest New York Health Act proposal until a third party can update cost projections for the legislation. A study released in August 2018 by the Rand Corporation is already obsolete, according to Bill Hammond of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, because Gottfried’s newest version unveiled last week adds several items that will cost the state more money than was considered in the 2018 Rand study.

Major changes include adding immediate coverage for long-term care, exempting income under $25,000 from new single-payer taxes, guaranteeing up to two years’ of unemployment benefits for displaced workers and mandating that government employers continue financing health benefits for retirees living out-of-state. Rand projected adding long-term care would require an additional $18 to $22 billion in tax revenue while exempting income less than $25,000 exempts roughly one-third of the state’s population from the new health care taxes, increasing the buren on middle- and higher-income taxpayers. There is no cost estimate at all to increase coverage for displaced workers and retirees.

If single payer would have called for a 156 percent increase in the state budget last August, we shudder to think how much it will cost with Gottfried’s latest additions. Gottfried should abandon his single payer crusade in favor of something the state may actually be able to afford.