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Assembly passes single-payer health care bill

COURTESY PHOTO Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr.
COURTESY PHOTO Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr.

The New York State Assembly has passed a single-payer health care bill co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor). A similar bill is pending before the Senate Health Committee.

The Assembly bill would establish a universal health care system within the state, while extending coverage to residents who might be traveling out of state and to those for clinical reasons need to receive care outside the state.

“Every enrollee wold have access to the full range of doctors and service providers offered,” Mr. Thiele said. The plan would provide comprehensive inpatient and outpatient care, primary and preventive care, maternity care, prescription drug coverage, laboratory testing, rehabilitative care and dental, vision and hearing care, he said.

“An inability to pay, or a pre-existing condition should never stop you from going to the doctor’s appointment, receiving the tests and getting the treatment that could save your life,” Mr. Thiele said. “All too often, families are forced to face a cruel dilemma — pay for costly health care or put food on the table,” he said. Universal health care is the better choice and the right thing to do,”

Providers and coordinators would be fully paid by New York Health with no co-pays, deductibles or other charges to patients.

The system would be publicly funded based on a shared 80/20 employer/employee payroll tax contribution  that would progressive and based on the amount the employee is paid.

“This eliminated the regressive tax of premiums, co-pays and deductibles that is currently imposed,” Mr. Thiele said. It would lift from employers the burden of paying premiums, thereby saving them money, the legislator said. They would no longer have to sign contracts with insurance companies and deal with the administration of health plans, he said.

State funding would combine with federal funds that are currently received for Medicare, Medicaid and Child Health Plus to create the New York Health Trust Fund.

The state would seek federal waivers allowing New York to completely fold those programs into the New York Health plan, he said. The local share of Medicaid funding would end, offering major property tax relief for New Yorkers, he said.

The system would improve care and save money, Mr. Thiele said. He referred to a 2009 study by the state Department of Health that showed a single payer system would provide the lowest cost for universal coverage compared with private and employer-based insurance.

The pending federal legislation would leave many New Yorkers without coverage, “a very real, life-or-death concern,” the legislator said.

“We need a system that provides the seniors who depend on prescription medication or the parents whose baby was born with a pre-existing condition with the health care they need no matter what,” Mr. Thiele said.

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