500 Rally in Albany for Universal Single-Payer Healthcare
(Albany, NY) - As "Improved Medicare for All" gains increasing public support nationally, over 500 supporters-healthcare professionals, patients, small business owners, local government officials, and representatives of organized labor-rallied in Albany on June 5th for a universal guaranteed healthcare system. The New York Health Act, a single-payer health plan without cost barriers to patients, would cover every New York resident, regardless of wealth, income, age, immigration or health status (A.4738 Gottfried /S.4840 Rivera).
Advocates then delivered to legislators over 10,000 postcard petitions, 400 business endorsements, and resolutions of support by 15 local legislative bodies. Last night, the Albany Common Council became the latest to weigh in, joining such entities as the Buffalo City Council and Rockland County Board of Legislators, as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. In addition, between Sunday and today, five activists rode their bikes from Brooklyn to Albany in memory of a friend who died from lack of healthcare to show support for the bill.
"The health care system is rigged against working people, and Congress and the Trump administration are working to restrict health care access even more. New York can do better with an 'improved Medicare for all' single-payer system that covers all of us and is funded fairly," said Health Committee Chair and bill sponsor Richard N. Gottfried. "Support is growing with the public and in the State Senate. Assembly passage is an important step as we continue to build support for universal health care to benefit everyone."
Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), sponsor of the Senate version of the New York Health Act, said: "At a time when the federal government is actively working to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, it is critical and necessary for our State to take the appropriate steps to safeguard New Yorkers access to healthcare. We need a more robust, inclusive debate on the benefits of implementing a healthcare for all system in New York State and I look forward to working with Assembly Member Gottfried and the Campaign for New York Health in making healthcare a right and not a privilege in New York State."
The New York Health Act passed the Assembly by 2 to 1 margins in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Currently 31 of the 63 Senators co-sponsor the bill, (just one shy of a majority), which also has support from many labor unions, healthcare professional organizations, and community groups. Growing discontent with the high expense of private health insurance was highlighted yesterday when New York State's 14 private health insurers requested an average 24% increase in rates for individuals next year, which if granted would be the fifth consecutive year of double-digit increases.
"Not one more death from lack of healthcare in the richest country in the world. Not one more," said Judy Gonzalez-Sheridan, President of the New York State Nurses Association, which represents 42,000 New York nurses as she addressed the crowd. "We will advocate until we have a healthcare system that delivers high quality care to every resident of New York."
Oliver Fein, MD, Board Chair of Physicians for a National Health Program - New York Metro Chapter, and Professor of Clinical Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, said: "As physicians, we see patients every day suffering needlessly from arbitrary denials of care by private, for-profit health insurance companies that charge high co-pays and deductibles. Many of us try in vain to help uninsured people who can't afford to fill our prescriptions. We're thrilled that the New York State Assembly has again recognized that healthcare is a human right -- now is the time for the Senate to follow suit."
Max Hadler, Senior Health Policy Manager at the New York Immigration Coalition, said: "The New York Health Act would be a vast improvement over our current system of widespread restrictions, which leaves 433,000 New Yorkers uninsured because of their immigration status, As we face down a vehemently anti-immigrant federal government determined to strip New Yorkers of immigration status and healthcare protections, it is time to pass the New York Health Act."
Rev. Emily McNeill, Executive Director, NYS Labor-Religion Coalition, said: "As long as healthcare is treated as a commodity, human lives are treated as commodities. As a person of faith, I must reject a healthcare system that results in needless suffering and denies the God-given dignity of human beings. The one million New Yorkers who lack health insurance and the millions more who struggle to pay for needed treatment have a right to healthcare. It's time for New York to respect and uphold that right and guarantee truly universal healthcare for everyone who lives here."
Wendy Stark, Executive Director, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, said: "Real LGBTQ equality in New York State cannot happen without universal, comprehensive healthcare. Our community health center, which sees 18,000 primarily LGBTQ patients annually and pays 100% of the healthcare costs for its employees and their families, estimates that a New York single payer health system would save us more than $3.5 million dollars in the first year. This is money that could be reinvested in our staff and patients. And, more than 5,700 of our patients would gain coverage and have access to the same quality care our state legislators and others enjoy."
"I'm proud that the Albany Common Council endorsed the New York Health Act. This reform would not only guarantee high quality healthcare to all residents, but it will save millions of dollars for local government. Albany would save approximately $23 million, funds badly needed to support our community and for a massive property tax cut for taxpayers, stated Darius Shahnifar, Treasurer for the City of Albany.
Austin Horse, Organizer, Bill's Great Bike Ride, said: "In 2015, my friend Bill Meier, a well-known San Francisco and New York bike messenger, passed away from a preventable health condition because he couldn't get healthcare within our current system. Bill was a great fun-loving and kind soul and his friends and family still mourn his untimely passing. We ghost-rode his bike for 162 miles from Brooklyn to Albany, bringing his memory to ask for the healthcare coverage that would have saved his life."