As Pandemic Rages, Lawmakers Reintroduce New York Health Act with Majority Support in State Legislature

The bill is backed by a large coalition representing upstate and downstate New Yorkers

Albany, NY – Advocates and lawmakers called for the urgent passage of the New York Health Act (A.6058/S.5474) upon its reintroduction today, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, racial inequities, and poor health outcomes that underscore the critical need to establish a universal, guaranteed healthcare system at the state level. For the first time in history, a majority of members of both the Assembly and the Senate are cosponsors of the legislation. 

“New Yorkers elected a Democratic super-majority in the middle of a pandemic as a mandate to enact bold transformational changes, including the New York Health Act,” stated Ursula Rozum, Co-Director of the Campaign for NY Health. “This bill must be central to a just and equitable recovery from this pandemic and brought to a vote this year.” 

The pandemic has amplified healthcare inequities. It has devastated us and simultaneously laid bare long-standing problems in our society, and how we must respond to them. The New York Health Act would save tens of billions of dollars in administrative waste and profit, funds which could be reinvested into guaranteeing care for all New Yorkers without fear of losing coverage, restricted provider networks, or facing co-pays and deductibles as barriers to care.

“Healthcare is increasingly unaffordable, and millions of people —especially Black, brown, immigrant and low-income New Yorkers—have experienced insecurity in their access to benefits when linked to employment in the recent economic downturn. In addition, the New York Health Act will end the reliance on for-profit nursing homes, allowing people to have the choice to receive long-term care services in their home delivered by a fairly paid homecare worker.” said YuLing Koh Hsu, Co-Director of the Campaign for NY Health.

Given the intensity of the healthcare crisis, support is growing for the New York Health Act backed by a diverse coalition representing healthcare workers, patients, disability rights advocates, birthworkers, and grassroots community organizations including the New York State Nurses Association and 1199SEIU – New York’s largest healthcare worker unions – Statewide Senior Action Council, Physicians for a National Health Program – NY Metro, NY Academy of Family Physicians, Commission on the Public’s Health System, New York Immigration Coalition, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the New York Association on Independent Living, the National Young Farmers Coalitions, Make the Road, Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY) and hundreds more organizations and small businesses statewide. See full endorser list at https://www.nyhcampaign.org/endorsers.

“Health care disparities are amplified in a pandemic, but they aren’t new” said Assembly Health Committee Chair and bill sponsor Richard Gottfried. “It’s shocking that people can come out of COVID-19 treatment with massive medical debt, but people also shouldn’t face financial obstacles or hardships for cancer treatment, having a baby, or other health care. The New York Health Act, a single-payer system, will guarantee that all New Yorkers regardless of income or job status can focus on their health and health care, not medical bills.”

“What the COVID-19 public health crisis has made abundantly clear is that the New York Health Act must be considered as an integral component of our State's post-pandemic recovery," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee and bill sponsor. “As we reintroduce this bill, I am incredibly proud that the majority of members in both the Assembly and the Senate cosponsor and support the legislation. This is a testament to the willingness of New Yorkers to fundamentally change the way healthcare is delivered in our State, which will help us attain health equity and address the deep health disparities further unearthed by this crisis.”

“As we continue to recover from this pandemic, we must start addressing the failures in our health system that left the most vulnerable in our communities at risk,” said New York State Senator Jessica Ramos. “Health care is a human right. All New Yorkers should be able to access these life-saving services without fear of what it may cost them and introducing a single-payer system through the New York Health Act is how we make that a reality across our state.”

New amendments to the New York Health Act make it the most feminist and health justice-oriented legislation that is needed to reverse many decades of inequity, racism, sexism, ageism, and ableism in healthcare

"The COVID Pandemic has crystalized the inherent weaknesses of our chaotic, for-profit health care system," said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, President, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). "The avoidable trauma that New Yorkers suffered—and continue to endure—as employment loss is accompanied by the cruel loss of health insurance, as this unfair system further punishes society’s most vulnerable—has a remedy. That remedy is the New York Health Act and we applaud Senator Rivera and Assembly member Gottfried for reintroducing this life-saving bill. Will the legislature find the compassion and the courage to make health care for all a reality? We don’t see how it is possible not to, given what we have seen this past year."

“1199SEIU caregivers understand all too well the access barriers that many New Yorkers face to healthcare,” said Gabby Seay, 1199SEIU’s Political Action Director. “As our population ages, and the demand for long-term care undoubtedly increases, it will be imperative that we have measures in place to ensure that New Yorkers are able to receive the care they need. We commend Senator Rivera and Assembly Member Gottfried for their commitment to our shared vision of healthcare access for all New Yorkers."

"This year the gaping inequities in access to healthcare and the clear disparities that exist become very clear. The pandemic continues to have a disproportionate impact on black, brown and immigrant communities. Now more than ever it is important to pass the New York Health Act, to ensure that everyone, regardless of immigration status has access to high quality, affordable health care. Make the Road New York applauds Assemblymember Gottfried and Senator Rivera for reintroducing this essential legislation during a time when access to affordable healthcare is vital for our communities." - Becca Telzak, Director of Health Programs at Make the Road New York

"In the past year, nearly 50,000 New Yorkers have died from COVID-19, millions have become unemployed, and many face the threat of becoming unhoused. It is clearer than ever that without a just recovery - that includes universal, guaranteed healthcare regardless of income, employment, or immigration status - our communities will continue to suffer. The New York Working Families Party is grateful for the leadership of Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, and we are proud to stand with our allies across the state to fight for passage of the New York Health Act." - Sochie Nnaemeka, New York Working Families Party State Director 

Melissa Bair, CNM, WHNP-BC, Queens County Democratic Committee Member AD30/ED48, Midwife Organizer of the Movement to Birth Liberation: “Long before the COVID-19 pandemic we healthcare providers have witnessed harm caused by our current health insurance system. I have had patients unable to maintain care with me because they changed jobs, and as a result their insurance carrier. I have had patients receive letters from a hospital system I worked for tell them mid-pregnancy that they were no longer taking my patient’s insurance. There is a fallacy that the current healthcare system offers choice but it is quite the opposite for patients and in fact this system causes a lack of choice that can have devastating outcomes for families. NOBODY should risk losing access to their healthcare provider because of a health insurance system dictated by an employer and a for-profit health insurance company. If New York is truly a state that cares about the welfare of ALL New Yorkers then we can no longer behave like there is any other choice than to pass the New York Health Act and truly guarantee access to healthcare for ALL. If not now, when?”

"Young Farmers are working to build a brighter future for agriculture, persevering through a global pandemic, the impacts of climate change, and enduring systemic racism. Access to affordable health care shouldn't be yet another challenge facing this next generation in a career that demands so much, financially, physically, and emotionally. Implementation of the New York Health Act would remove a significant barrier for many aspiring farmers, and help young farmers stay in the field." - Erika Rincon, NY Campaign Organizer, National Young Farmers Coalition 

Senator Samra Brouk, SD-55: "The healthcare system as it exists today is not sufficient to meet the needs of New Yorkers. As we've experienced acutely during COVID-19, health disparities and limited access to quality care have created an inequitable system in which some people thrive while others barely survive. I'm proud to co-sponsor the NY Health Act because our families deserve the security and peace of mind that comes with knowing our healthcare needs will be met. New York needs a just recovery from this pandemic, and that means ensuring equitable access to healthcare for all."

Senator Michelle Hinchey (SD 46): “Healthcare is a fundamental human right, but I’ve seen first-hand how broken our current system is, especially in our rural communities. When done right, the New York Health Act will be our opportunity to care for all people, like our seniors struggling to find home-based services, our farmers working a second job just to get health coverage, and our small business owners who can’t keep up with skyrocketing healthcare costs. We need a system that works for everyone. I’m honored to co-sponsor the New York Health Act and to have the opportunity to proactively work with the bill sponsors to ensure that every concern is addressed, from continuing the quality of coverage for our friends in labor to making sure current jobs in our communities are protected. I thank Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Gottfried for championing this legislation and for our continued collaboration to make our healthcare system in New York a model for the rest of the country.”

Senator Rachel May (SD 53): “I have long supported the New York Health Act, and the need for it is more imperative than ever. We have just endured a pandemic with unprecedented job losses that left many working families without healthcare. We must rethink our employer-based insurance system. We can, and we should, do better by passing the New York Health Act to allow New Yorkers to have the freedom to switch jobs, start businesses, and live life without fear of bankruptcy from medical care.” 

Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas (AD 34): “The coronavirus pandemic has changed our city and state as we know them. New York has been the epicenter and this has laid bare the systemic inequities of our society. Fifty thousand New Yorkers have died. But it is not a surprise that communities of color, immigrants, and people outside of the traditional economy have died the most. Our healthcare system is the by-product of a nation that prioritizes white and wealthy people over Black and Brown and working class communities. I believe that the New York Health Act can help us begin to level the playing field by providing universal healthcare to all of us regardless of employment and immigration status. I’m a proud co-sponsor of the bill and I look forward to helping to get it passed. Now is the time for real change. This is our moment.”

Assemblymember Michaelle Solages (AD 22): "The communities across New York State who stand to benefit the most from passage of the New York Health Act are the exact communities that our Members represent," said Chairwoman of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus. "They are the communities whose labor has been deemed essential during the pandemic, and therefore it's essential that we do all we can to make healthcare a right as opposed to a privilege for Black and brown New Yorkers."

Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles (AD 125): The COVID19 crisis has highlighted the racial and economic inequities baked into our privatized health care system. New York’s uninsured rate was 5.2% before the pandemic, translating into over 1 million people at risk of not getting the health care they need. Compounding the issue, those who are least likely to have health insurance are also those NYers who have contracted COVID19 at the highest rates due to their front-line essential worker status. Although COVID19 testing has been free for many, treatment has not and has left thousands who are uninsured with even more debt. Skyrocketing unemployment over the past year has left even more people without access to health care when they need it the most. And for many, especially BIPOC communities hit hardest by Covid-19, there will be long term health effects down the road prolonging the disastrous economic effects of the past year for families across New York. Now is the time for universal health coverage. The New York Health Act would reduce the uninsured rate to 0% — delivering quality healthcare to every person in New York, regardless of their socio-economic status.

Assemblymember Fred Thiele (AD 1): "I have long supported the New York Health Act because universal healthcare is the best option we have to provide quality coverage for all New Yorkers. This unprecedented public health and economic crisis has both highlighted and exacerbated glaring inequities in our healthcare system. As we continue to face and recover from the devastating impacts of COVID-19, it is imperative that a universal, guaranteed healthcare system becomes a reality for all." 

Assemblymember Phil Steck (AD 110): “The New York Health Act is essential for the economic future of Upstate New York. Our businesses cannot continue to pay excessively high prices for health insurance. It hurts their competitive position. Our employees cannot continue to have their purchasing power reduced by an ever-increasing share of health insurance premiums being passed on to them. We also pay for overlapping coverages in things like auto insurance and workers compensation insurance which include charges for health care coverage, making those policies unduly expensive. Those charges are unnecessary in a single payer model. The rest of the world has seen that the single payer model is the best at keeping costs down, while we are stuck in a rut. Instead, let’s move forward with the New York Health Act."

Anthony Feliciano, Director, Commission on the Public's Health System: "The coronavirus pandemic is placing extraordinary strain on the lives of poor, uninsured, under-insured, and communities of color. We have in NYC a fragmented non-profit-run but for-profit and structurally racist apparatus that has struggled to cope with the growing health crisis. Before the virus came, we had millions without reliable and affordable health coverage. The reintroduction of the New York Health Act is a necessary and critically important tool to strengthen New York State's recovery efforts.”.

Maria Alvarez, Executive Director, NY StateWide Senior Action Council: "The COVID-19 Pandemic has magnified the need for comprehensive and robust health care coverage for all New Yorkers regardless of income, employment, immigration status, or station in life. The NY Health Act addresses all of this. We await the re-introduction of this bill and encourage the legislature to pass it this year." 

Oliver Fein, MD, Board Chair of Physicians for a National Health Program - New York Metro Chapter: “Every day, doctors treating COVID-19 see the grossly disproportionate rates of illness and death in communities of color, partly due to the inequities in financing hospitals and clinics. Under the New York Health Act, every hospital would get reimbursed adequately, regardless of its patients' insurance status. This would give care providers the tools and funds they need to provide quality care, especially in pandemics, and universal coverage would ensure that patients don't need to postpone urgent care because they fear high costs."

Eileen Toback, Executive Director, NY Professional Nurses Union: "Everyone who banged a pot and clapped their hands at 7 pm last year can make a real difference in a healthcare provider's life and the health and welfare of their family, friends, and neighbors by showing support for the NY Health Act. Frontline nurses have been advocates of the NY Health Act for years, but when COVID-19 hit, our broken healthcare system proved without a doubt that we were in as much need of an effective health system as we were an effective vaccine. No more waiting. We need to pass the NY Health Act now."

Samuel Lee, Mount Sinai Students for a National Health Program: "As a future doctor, I want to care for patients in a system built for patient care not for profit. The COVID-19 pandemic has increasingly highlighted the inequities baked into our healthcare system. I support the NY Health Act to reimagine our fragmented healthcare non-system and build a more just and equitable system."

Elisabeth R. Benjamin, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York, co-founder of Health Care for All New York: “Community Service Society strongly supports the New York Health Act not only because it would cover the remaining 1 million uninsured New Yorkers. It also eliminates the profound affordability problems that plague nearly everyone else and reduces disparities in access to quality affordable care to boot.”

Hannah Jackel-Dewhurst, Volunteer, Rochester for NY Health, Metro Justice: "COVID has made it even clearer how tying health insurance to employment hurts people. No one should have to lose both their job and health insurance during a pandemic. Metro Justice is proud to be a founding member of the Campaign for New York Health and working without allies across the state to pass the New York Health Act and guarantee health care coverage for all New Yorkers."

Max Hadler, Director, Health Policy, New York Immigration Coalition: "Immigrant New Yorkers have borne a disproportionate burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, comprising one-third of the state's essential workforce while continuing to be left out of New York's discriminatory health coverage system. More than 400,000 undocumented New Yorkers remain uninsured because of their immigration status. The New York Health Act ends this discrimination by providing universal coverage to all New York residents, and we support it wholly." 

Catherine Murcek, NYCNoWC Advocacy Council Member, Worker-owner, Samamkaya Yoga Back Care & Scoliosis Collective: "The NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives strongly supports the New York Health Act. The need for accessible, comprehensive healthcare has been identified again and again as a priority for our members, who are all small business owners, many of whom are also essential workers. This act is not only a crucial element of a just recovery--as we have seen how the pandemic has highlighted disparities in access to good healthcare--but also as a way to protect the health of our small business community, and ALL New Yorkers for generations to come." 

Holly Nowak, Director, Coalition for Economic Justice: "The New York Health Act is urgently needed to reverse the healthcare inequality that impacts working class people and communities of color in Western New York. In Buffalo, rates of preventable health problems like asthma, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and hypertension spike dramatically east of Main Street, where roughly 85% of Black Buffalonians live. The New York Health Act removes the financial and insurance barriers that keep healthcare segregated and that contribute to higher rates of preventable disease. We need our lawmakers to make passing the New York Health Act a priority to put our state on the road to health equity."

Barbara Rivera, Rochester Citywide Tenants Union: "Rochester is one of the poorest cities in the states but is surrounded by some of the wealthiest suburbs in the state. In a city that has been intentionally impoverished, it blows my mind that we are still fighting for essential things like housing, healthcare, and education. The most affected communities are Black and Brown. Without housing, how do we keep our families safe. Without healthcare, how do we keep our families healthy. Without education, how do we teach our children. The folks in this community are tired of being the last ones at the table to eat."

Sandra Lobo, Executive Director, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition: "Healthcare is a human right. We must focus on shaping a new reality for the Bronx grounded in racial justice and economic democracy instead of fighting back draconian government cuts that leave our community more vulnerable. The Bronx and all of New York needs the New York Health Act to establish a health system that is funded fairly and guarantees equitable care for everybody.” 

Jeanette Estime, Director of Policy, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies: “Our current healthcare system has long been failing New Yorkers, especially communities of color and those living in poverty, a fact brought into high relief by the Covid-19 pandemic. If ever there was a time to create a truly comprehensive healthcare system providing universal, quality healthcare to all regardless of age, health condition, immigration status, and income, it is now. FPWA strongly urges the passage of the New York Health Act as a critical step in the state’s plan for an equitable recovery.”

Doug Bullock, First Vice President, Albany County Central Federation of Labor: “The Albany County Central Federation of Labor strongly supports the New York Health Act and has unanimously voted for a resolution in support. This Act takes healthcare off the bargaining table for unions and institutes a healthcare program superior to almost all union negotiated agreements. In the USA the Covid-19 pandemic has by far taken the highest death toll of any other country and exposed the weakness of our current, expensive, for profit system.”

Suzanne Krull, Executive Director, Cuba Cultural Center: "When COVID19 sent New York State into Pause last year, our food pantry saw an immediate increase in folks needing assistance to feed their families. Among those new clients were folks who lost access to employment and health care. The pandemic has highlighted how unwise it is to link health care access to work. Under the NY Health Act everyone is covered regardless of their employment status, and people will be released from a huge worry whenever any type of crisis strikes. We needed the NY Health Act before the pandemic, and we need it even more now." 

Jessica Maxwell, Director, Workers’ Center of Central New York: “We have essential workers who are afraid to go to the hospital, workers who were turned away from COVID testing services for inability to pay, and families who are choosing between food, rent and crucial medications. In a state as wealthy as NY, where we have the resources and the infrastructure to provide care, failing to provide adequate healthcare is an egregious violation of basic human rights. Now more than ever we need to win healthcare for all." 

Hallie Yee, Health Policy Coordinator, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families: “Our Asian Pacific American (APA) communities and other communities of color have been left behind in the State's COVID response and must be centered in the discussion of revitalization as they face greater challenges and loss due to this pandemic. The New York Health Act would begin this process of recourse with the lens of racial equity that is so direly needed. Considering that nearly 18% of APAs over the age of 18 are uninsured, NYHA would vastly improve healthcare access for our community. In the light of the last administration’s expansion of the federal Public Charge rule, NYHA would also remove health insurance from being means-tested and thereby from being included in the expanded Public Charge Test, ensuring that our highly immigrant APA community can access healthcare without fear of losing their place in this country.” 

Blair Horner, Executive Director, New York Public Interest Research Group: "As the nation's – and state's – finances buckle from the economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, two lessons must be learned: (1) No one should lack health coverage, and (2) The American health insurance system is simply too wasteful and expensive. New York should serve as a model for the nation in developing a program that ensures universal coverage and which dramatically reduces the administrative costs of care. NY Health achieves both." 

Mark Hannay, Director, Metro New York Health Care for All: “If the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession has revealed anything, it’s that the need to move forward with a plan for universal health care in New York is an absolute imperative now, for a whole variety of reasons. We salute Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Gottfried for their continued commitment to drive this conversation forward, and the New York Health Act provides the framework for that discussion. We stand ready to work with them in that effort and get the job done.”

Mia Ferraina, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Tompkins County Chapter Leadership Circle: "The discrepancy in insurance coverage for different racial groups is unethical - we demand systemic reform! The NY Health Act will help eliminate the inequities caused by our privatized, employment-coupled insurance system, which have been further exacerbated by the disproportionate racial and economic impacts of the current pandemic." 

Richard Hollman, Care Packages for the Homeless: "We at Care Packages for the Homeless fully support the NY Health Act. In the best of times, there is no moral or practical reason to not have equal opportunity to public healthcare in the same way we there is access to a host of other public services and programs that support our economy. And in light of the pandemic, which has laid bare the inequities of our current patchwork system, a switch to universal single-payer care is more urgent than ever. There can be no economic or racial justice without it." 

Maria Quakenbush, Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance: “Affordable, accessible, healthcare is an important issue for residents in Dutchess County and the Mid-Hudson region. Although most New Yorkers have health insurance, many people have long struggled to afford premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and the high cost of prescription drugs. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the dysfunction and inadequacy, as well as the racial and class inequality, of our current healthcare system. The Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance fully supports the passage of the New York Health Act to guarantee comprehensive health coverage to every New Yorker.” 

Jeff Mikkelson, Hudson Valley Demands New York Health: "Our society and public health system have proven tragically unprepared to handle this pandemic and economic crisis, causing tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths in New York alone—disproportionately in nursing homes, disadvantaged areas and communities of color—as well as financial hardship, loss of employment and loss of health insurance for millions at the worst possible time, underscoring the absurdity and inhumanity of our fragmented, wasteful, for-profit healthcare system. It is time for our elected leaders to muster the moral and political courage to pass the New York Health Act, and finally guarantee comprehensive healthcare to every New Yorker as a basic right."

Dan Colacurcio, Nassau County DSA: "The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has exposed the critical flaws in our privatized, profit-driven health insurance model. We see friends & neighbors struggling with insurance companies, lost coverage, and medical bills during this pandemic. In this unprecedented public health crisis and economic disaster with minimal federal aid, it has never been more urgent for us to pass the New York Health Act."

Carol S. Przybylak, Vice Chair, Erie County Green Party: “New Yorkers are threatened by COVID-19 infection with millions facing financial devastation due to unemployment and loss of employer-sponsored health insurance. Medicaid and Social safety net programs have experienced significant budget cuts. Now is the time to pass the NY Health Act. Health Care is a Human Right.”

Judy Fletcher, NYCD16 Indivisible: “The pandemic has amplified the injustices in our healthcare system, as many New Yorkers cannot afford to access healthcare, many lost their coverage due to job loss, and there are disproportionate effects on people of color. NY State could be a model for universal healthcare for the rest of the nation. With a Democratic supermajority in our state legislature and a Democratic federal government to grant the needed Medicaid waiver, now is the time to pass the NY Health Act!”

Julie Wegener, MD, Co-Chair, Uptown Progressive Action: “Passing the New York Health Act has always been a matter of life and death. In the midst of record-breaking deaths from COVID-19, we see record breaking insurance company profits. In the midst of record-breaking job losses, how can anyone believe healthcare should be tied to employment? Our hearts break as we see the role inequality plays in killing our most vulnerable New Yorkers. It is imperative that we pass the New York Health Act as part of a just and equitable recovery.” 

Binh Hoang, GAPIMNY—Empowering Queer & Trans APIs: "GAPIMNY, a NYC queer and trans API community organization founded in 1990, believes that universal, comprehensive healthcare is a key pillar of an equitable, just, and prosperous society. Passing the New York Health Act would fulfill that vision for New York State and set a model for others." 

Helen Krim, Northwest Bronx Indivisible: “Because of the impact of Covid-19 in poor communities of color, we conclude that only the elimination of insurance company profit from the healthcare system will allow racial equity in healthcare. During the pandemic people of color lost health insurance twice as often as white people. Latinx people lost health insurance four times more often than white people. Our goal is universal access to high quality affordable healthcare. We therefore urge the legislature to support the New York Health Act.” - 

George Albro, Jay Bellanca and Nancy de Delva, Cari Gardner, New York Progressive Action Network: “NYPAN is proud to reaffirm our support for the NY Health Act. The COVID pandemic exposed the flaws of a healthcare financing system designed to satisfy the greed of a wealthy few rather than meet the healthcare needs of New York State residents. We can and must provide comprehensive healthcare to all NY residents at an affordable cost. We are honored to add our name to endorse this ethical and humane legislation.”

Rick Sprout, Co-chair, Workers’ Center of the Southern Tier: “As COVID continues its murderous rampage throughout our state & the planet, health care is not a question of access but a right. Forcing people to make impossible choices between paying rent, buying food, affording childcare or seeking medical care is nothing short of barbarism. New Yorkers need our legislators to pass the New York Health Act.”