Socialized Medicine Under Negotiation At The Statehouse

On February 9, State of Politics reported that negotiations are underway on amendments to the New York Health Act.

In recent years, socialists and socialist-leaning leftists across the country have been pushing for the creation of a government-controlled health insurance system. On the national level, the push for socialized medicine has been led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who supports a proposal known as Medicare for All. The New York Health Act is the state-level socialized medicine bill that has been proposed here in the Empire State. The bill passed the State Assembly in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. As of last year, the New York Health Act had 33 Senate sponsors and 84 Assembly sponsors—enough for the bill to pass both houses if it had been voted upon. Given that new far-left legislators were elected to the State Legislature last November, it is entirely possible that these numbers will be higher once this year’s version of the bill is introduced. Asm. Richard Gottfried, the longtime Assembly sponsor of the bill, retired at the end of last year; this year, the bill’s leading sponsors will be Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) and Asm. Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale).

The New York Health Act would ban most private health insurance in the state of New York and make all New York residents (including undocumented immigrants) eligible for enrollment in a state-run insurance program. While the idea of universal health care is appealing to some voters, and while it is important that health insurance be available to New York families at prices that they can afford, the real-life implications of socialized medicine would be a nightmare. Socialized medicine could easily lead to the rationing of medical care, and would leave high-cost patients with no alternatives if the government refused to provide coverage for their treatment. The New York Health Act is also objectionable as a matter of personal freedom; in a free country, the state must not tell its citizens that government-provided health insurance is their only option. Socialized medicine would also make it easier for government to pressure faith-based health care providers into engaging in acts that violate their beliefs or leaving the healthcare field altogether.

Another serious problem with the New York Health Act is its cost. While the cost of the program is unknown, one estimate indicates that socialized medicine could double the New York state budget (which, for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, totaled $220.5 billion). Furthermore, while the bill states that the state-run health insurance program would be funded through two new payroll taxes, it refrains from stating the amounts of those taxes. Instead, the bill would require the governor of New York to create a revenue plan and submit it to the Legislature. Presumably, the main reason that the bill does not set the amounts of the massive tax hikes that would be needed to fund a universal state-run health insurance system is because doing so would make the entire legislation politically toxic. Concealing the true cost of socialized medicine from New York voters is unacceptable and, quite frankly, cowardly.

Others have raised their own objections to the New York Health Act. Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma) has expressed cost and tax concerns, as well as concerns about the quality of health care under socialized medicine. Furthermore, Bill Hammond of the Empire Center pointed out that New York “‘is not a state that’s known for efficient management of programs.’”

One major impediment to the passage of the New York Health Act is the opposition of public-sector labor unions. As State of Politics reports, unions are loath to give up the health insurance benefits that they have negotiated in their contracts with the state. Asm. Paulin has stated that she is waiting to see whether proposed amendments to the bill will meet with the unions’ approval before she moves forward. Because labor unions wield great political power in New York (especially in Democratic circles), it could be difficult or impossible to pass the bill if the unions fail to get on board. This gives opponents of the New York Health Act some degree of hope that the bill may continue to be derailed.

State of Politics expressed uncertainty over Gov. Kathy Hochul’s position on the New York Health Act. However, as of April 28, 2022, the Governor’s position was quite clear. In her responses to a candidate questionnaire, Gov. Hochul stated that she “believes every New Yorker should have access to affordable, quality healthcare but doesn’t believe the New York Health Act is a feasible policy at this time.” New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms agrees, and urges the Governor to maintain her opposition to this destructive and unnecessary proposal.