By Alec Pruchnicki, MD
This isn’t a theoretical question. There is actually a bill in the New York State legislature sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Gustavo Rivera called the New York Health Act. It would provide extensive universal medical coverage for all residents of New York State, eliminate almost all private medical insurance and pay for all of this with corporate and progressive income taxes. Remaking such a major industry requires a lot of discussion over each detail of the legislation.
Fortunately, there will be an opportunity for the public to speak up on this legislation. A forum is being organized by the Village Independent Democrats, along with at least a half dozen other downtown Democratic political clubs. It will be on Sunday, October 6th, at the Elisabeth Irwin High School at 40 Charlton street (between 6th avenue and Varick street) from 3 PM to at least 5. Gottfried and Rivera will be keynote speakers with possible statements from Representative Jerry Nadler and City Counsel Member Carlina Rivera. To broaden the discussion to include non-elected individuals, there will be two advocates for the bill (a physician and a nurse) and possibly two critics (still being solicited).
But, the most important aspect of the forum will be the opportunity for input from the public. The format of the forum will be for all the speakers to make brief statements, maybe ten minutes at most, and leave extensive time for both questions and comments from the audience. Although the forum has been organized by political clubs, it will be open to the general public. Individuals asking for more information or those with strong views they wish to express will be given an opportunity to speak. And, there will be elected officials there who will speak.
The purpose of the forum is not just to help pass a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. The bill has enough sponsors in the Assembly to be passed, and almost enough in the Senate (as of the writing of this article in the middle of September). Strong public input might make a difference as to the passage or rejection of the bill, along with the possible signing or veto by governor Cuomo. The clubs will be encouraged to consider the information from the forum and decide on whether to pass resolutions supporting passage, rejecting passage, or consciously staying neutral. Individuals not affiliated with clubs will be able to use the information and contact their own elected officials to express their opinions. The ideal goal is not just to sit and listen but to speak up.
New York Health Act Outline
—A single state fund covers every resident
—Comprehensive benefits including long-term care
—No financial barriers to receiving services
—No deductibles, no co-pays
—No Medicare Part B and Part D premiums
—Funded thru public funds and progressive taxes
—Costs less than we’re now spending