The battle for universal health care begins now


Why did Gov. Cuomo recently veto a bill that would have reduced the cost of prescription drugs, hospital care and outpatient procedures in New York?

The bill he vetoed would have increased transparency, accountability and oversight over pharmacy benefit managers, whose currently unregulated, anti-competitive and too often fraudulent practices contribute to our soaring costs.

With this veto, Gov. Cuomo again allied himself with Big Pharma and Big Insurance — who are all “Big Campaign Donors” — who fear regulation that might reduce their profits (by lowering our costs). These corporations, among the Fortune 500’s most profitable, spend millions of dollars spreading misinformation about the New York Health Act, which will bring us affordable, comprehensive, universal health care.

Their outrageous myths need debunking. Recent worries about our purported $4 billion state budget deficit should energize us to pass legislation that will save tens of billions of dollars while vastly expanding health care. And the New York Health Act has been vetted by three sets of professional economists, including the centrist Rand Corp.

Perhaps the most outrageous myth is that we don’t need single-payer health care because only 5 percent of New Yorkers are uninsured. In fact, health care is unaffordable for at least half of New Yorkers — in financial costs, and more importantly, in lost lives and shattered families.

• Fact: 22 percent of Bronx residents have no health insurance at all — more than 300,000 of our neighbors.

• Fact: 50 percent of Bronx residents are on Medicaid, shackled to a form of medical apartheid with no primary care physician, depending on medical interns or residents, and emergency room services.

• Fact: The Bronx ranks 62nd in its health care outcomes out of 62 state counties. Asthma, diabetes and maternal mortality are worse than in some developing nations.

• Fact: Nearly 10 million New Yorkers with insurance are one medical catastrophe away from financial jeopardy, or even ruin — regularly skipping medical care and essential medications.

The New York Health Act will cost us less than the current for-profit system:

• Fact: Big Insurance spends 18 to 20 percent of every premium dollar on administration, advertising and lobbyists, their profits increasing only when our costs increase.

• Fact: Hospitals spend 25 percent of their budgets on billing and collecting — from their patients.

• Fact: The for-profit health sector spends $1.6 million per day on lobbyists.

Think about using all these wasted “health care dollars” for medical services. Then understand how the New York Health Act will save us money while giving us more health care.

And the New York Health Act will be good for business. All economic studies indicate that, while the bill reduces overall costs for 95 percent of us, the progressive funding will stimulate our economy. Rand estimates 180,000 new jobs, a healthier work force, and the end of “job-lock.”

It is time for our leaders to lead. We ask our state representatives to demonstrate their support for this legislation by publicizing the bill in their newsletters and featuring it in campaign advertising.

We ask them to recognize the suffering and fear that rising health care costs cause their constituents — worsened by well-financed misinformation campaigns of dark money and corporate lobbyists.

We ask our representatives to hold informational meetings about this legislation so constituents can express their concerns and learn the facts.

We propose an alliance — grassroots citizens and elected legislators — to defeat Big Insurance, Big Pharma, and their paid-to-say-anything shills.

Yes, this is a risky proposal for our legislators because the establishment has long tentacles and will stop at nothing. But their constituents are at risk for their lives.

Let’s all put together to show the nation how to make health care affordable for everyone, while saving money, eliminating waste, stimulating the economy, creating jobs, improving our health, and lengthening our lives.

New York health — because we matter.

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Helen Krim, Barbara Estrin,