By J. Thomas
This month, Dr. Gerald Friedman, Chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, released a new study on the potential cost savings if New York state implemented a single-payer, universal health care system. In a single-payer system, every American would be guaranteed a basic level of health care, much like Medicare guarantees health coverage to American seniors.
Among the findings from Friedman’s estimates: 98 percent of New Yorkers would save money; 2 percent of New Yorkers – those making more than $436,000 annually – would pay more via increased taxes; New Yorkers would save an average of $2,200 each year; and business savings would spur the creation of 200,000 jobs. Moreover, Friedman says, “New York’s overall economic savings from a single-payer model reduces health care spending by $45 billion.”
“This detailed economic study gives us clear proof that a universal health care plan is the right move for New York,” said Assembly Health Committee chair and lead sponsor Richard Gottfried.
It’s more urgent than ever for New Yorkers to learn about the benefits of universal health care. In December, Public Citizen Health Care Advocate Vijay Das spoke before New York legislators as part of a series of historic meetings in support of the New York Health Bill, which would extend health coverage to every New Yorker. The bill currently has 77 cosponsors (out of 150) in the New York Assembly and 19 cosponsors (out of 63) in the New York Senate.
More than 80 New York organizations have endorsed single-payer, including Physicians for a National Health Program New York Metro Chapter; HealthCare-NOW! NYC; New York League of Women Voters; Green Party; Working Families Party; New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus; New York AFL-CIO and many other labor unions, health and consumer groups.
The report acknowledges that our current system is both inefficient and unaffordable. The political reality is that the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) was compromise legislation that fell short of providing universal health coverage. While the ACA extends the benefits of insurance to more Americans, it’s built on a weak foundation that preserves the inefficiencies of the for-profit health insurance industry.
The United States is the only country in the developed world that doesn’t guarantee health insurance to its citizens. What’s more, we spend more money on health care as a percentage of our gross domestic product than any other country in the world – rich or poor – with poorer outcomes.
There is a large and growing number of citizens who favor the move to universal health care in the United States. A new poll shows that most Americans support single-payer health care, including 80 percent of Democrats. President Obama himself backed single-payer as a state senator in Illinois.
The nation deserves universal health care and if New York leads the way on single-payer, it would be an innovative laboratory of democracy — as the states were envisioned to be by the founders of our federal system.
J. Thomas is a health policy fellow with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.