May 29, 2019 | Updates

N.Y. Lawmakers Push Government-Run Health System Cuomo Said ‘No Sane Person Will Pass’

WASHINGTON – As the push for Medicare for all “falters” in the U.S. Congress, some lawmakers in New York are pushing for a one-size-fits-all health care system run by the state’s government, a scheme about which Andrew Cuomo, the state’s Democratic Governor, has warned that “no sane person will pass it,” and “you’d double everybody’s taxes” to pay for it.  

New Yorkers have expressed concerns with the plan’s high costs and the massive tax increases needed to bankroll it, and as the AlbanyTimes Union reports, many “are worried about the unpredictability and unknowns associated with upending an entire health care system, not to mention the idea of entrusting such an important system with the state government.”  They write:

Lawmakers on both sides of the issue appeared particularly concerned about any possible effect on retirees, who fear they may lose hard-fought benefits obtained through years and sometimes decades of union negotiations … “These are things we fought for and we’re not about to give them up,” said Peter Meringolo, chair of the NYS Public Employee Conference, an organization with 82 member unions.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that others pointed out that “more than 95% of New Yorkers have health insurance …  [and] said it would be more feasible and a better investment of resources to target the estimated one million New Yorkers who now lack coverage, and questioned the cost of the plan.”

When it comes to its enormous costs, “[t]he bill doesn’t have a specific funding plan.  But it calls for higher capital-gains taxes and a new payroll tax,” The Journal notes.

Already, the costly plan’s need for massive tax hikes has sparked criticism on both sides of the aisle.  In an interview with The Atlantic in March, Governor Cuomo was blunt about the political and fiscal costs of implementing a one-size-fits-all government-run health care system in the state, warning that “you’d double everybody’s taxes” to pay for it.

Notably, high costs and unaffordable tax hikes have doomed similar plans to implement single-payer health care on the state level.  The New York Times editorial board acknowledged that “[i]n Vermont and Colorado, legislators dropped bids for a state-run single-payer system when it became clear that people would not support the tax increases needed to sustain such a program.

And Roll Call reported that Peter Shumlin, Vermont’s Democratic former governor who campaigned on a platform of single-payer health care, later admitted that the 11.5 percent payroll tax and 9.5 percent income tax that were proposed to finance the system were too much for taxpayers to accept: “The final bill was too much for the state to bear, he said.  ‘The biggest problem was money,’ Shumlin said …  And he couldn’t promise lawmakers that they wouldn’t need to hike taxes again later to accommodate rising health care costs.  ‘I couldn’t with a straight face turn to them and say, no, we’ve got this figured out,’ he said.”

Those following the national debate over America’s health care future have also taken note of these state-level failures.  The Washington Post reported recently that the failed attempt to implement a costly single-payer system in Vermont “offers sobering lessons for the current crop of Democrats running for president, including Vermont’s own Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), most of whom embrace Medicare-for-all,” adding: “Then as now, many of the advocates shared ‘a belief that borders on the theological’ that such a system would save money, as one analyst put it – even though no one knew what it would cost when it passed in Vermont.  That belief would prove naive.”

As awareness grows nationwide that proposed government insurance programs – like so-called “buy-in” or “public option” schemes – are simply a slippery slope to a one-size-fits-all system run by Washington, Americans will continue to learn of these plans’ negative impacts on patients, families and taxpayers – from higher costs, to loss of choice and control, to longer wait times, a lower quality of care and even the threat of hospital closures.

Just as in Washington, lawmakers in Albany would do well to heed these warnings and instead work to build and improve upon what is working for New Yorkers while coming together to fix what isn’t.



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