State Should Branch Out To Hear The Needs Of Residents

There will be more hearings on the New York Health Act, according to state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, chair of the Senate’s Health Care Committee.

It was good that Rivera said, in April, that the Senate wouldn’t vote on the legislation until after a public hearing was held. The announcement on Friday that more public hearings will be held is also welcome news.

Such a fundamental change in the way New York’s health care system would operate surely deserves more than one public hearing, held the day after a three-day holiday weekend. Legislators in Albany are well-versed in the intricacies of the New York Health Act, so what comes out of the public hearings is likely old hat to them. Voters don’t know as much about the legislation, so they should have the opportunity to hear what regional professionals think of the legislation.

Most people likely know the broad strokes of the New York Health Act. All New Yorkers would receive health coverage, lowering the state’s rate of uninsured residents from 4.7 percent to zero, at a cost that would require hefty tax increases unless the state receives waivers from the federal government. Most people have no concept of the intricacies of this type of legislation. The legislature would have to untangle the mix of private and public insurances, in-network and out-of-network coverages, deductibles and how the new state insurance plan interacts with public sector plans that are likely more generous. How would the act affect hospitals or local doctor’s offices? What types of things would be covered that may not be covered by insurances currently?

One hearing in Albany doesn’t come close to answering all of the questions people are likely to have. The state Senate should set up hearings not just throughout the state, but ideally in every county. Health care and the costs with such a single-payer system are important topics that touch everyone, and the needs of rural New Yorkers are vastly different than the needs of those living in one of the state’s major five cities. The site of public hearings on this legislation should reflect the state’s diversity, not just places where the New York Health Act will receive a friendly ear.

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