October 21, 2021

New York Health Act takes center stage at forum

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Barbara Kobritz of Cortland asks panelists about where Gov. Andrew Cuomo stands on New York’s single-payer health care plan proposal during an Indivisible Cortland County monthly meeting Saturday at the United Presbyterian Church in Cortland.

The experts painted a portrait of two health plans Saturday.

One would save New York residents $45 billion a year, about $2,200 per person, while expanding health-care coverage.
The other would make health care harder for at least 82,000 New Yorkers, one said.

The health forum Saturday drew representatives of three health services, businesses and government. It was coordinated by Indivisible Cortland County, formed after the 2016 elections, which has, since November, organized forums on changes in Washington, immigration and the environment.

“We wanted to make sure we do this right,” said Susan Williams, one of the event organizers, as they wanted a well-rounded panel who could offer several perspectives at the United Presbyterian Church.

The forum was meant to discuss the implications of the American Health Care Act — the replacement Congress is considering to the Affordable Care Act — but it drew as many questions for a piece legislation the Assembly passed last week: The New York Health Act.

Linda Smith, chief of staff for Assembly Member Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca), said the state plan would save money through not paying insurance company administration, health-care provider costs, premiums, deductibles or other charges. The state would also bargain with pharmaceutical companies the cost of medication or medical equipment.

In turn, residents would have more money in their pockets, would have better health care access, and business could expand now that they wouldn’t have to worry about which plan to use, she said.

How much more? She cited an analysis by economist Gerald Friedman of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst estimating $2,200 saved per resident, or $45 billion, while expanding coverage.

The bill has 30 co-sponsors in the Assembly, all Democrats, including Lifton. It now sits with the state Senate health committee, where Sen. James Seward (R-Milford), is a member.

“Ever since Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman, we’ve been working to create a system for all,” where the industrialized countries with public health-care systems believe it is a right, not a privilege, said Henry Steck of Homer. “Not even Margaret Thatcher touched the British health-care system.”

Other panelists talked about their experiences before and under the Affordable Care Act, and what to expect under the proposed American Health Care Act.

* Lisa Hoeschele, executive director and CEO of Family Counseling Services of Cortland County, said about 80 percent of her organization’s clients are covered either by Medicaid or the ACA. She projected that about 82,000 New Yorkers would lose coverage under the AHCA.

* Denise Wrinn, vice president of finance at Cortland Regional Medical Center, 70 percent of patients at Cortland Regional Medical Center have coverage through a government-funded program.

* Dr. Doug Rahner of Family Health Network said the number of uninsured patients he dealt with dropped by two-thirds under the Affordable Care Act.

* Bob Haight, executive director of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce, said that under the Affordable Care Act, depending on the income small-business employees make, they would be better off finding insurance privately than having a plan through the business. “We have small business owners shelling out hundreds of dollars a month,” Haight said this morning. In some cases, giving the employee a small raise to buy insurance under the ACA is cheaper than providing the benefit.