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Assembly Health Committee chair pitches universal health care in Nassau

New York State could save $20 billion annually through a single-payer health care system that would provide coverage for all residents no matter their ability to pay, said State Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried Wednesday at a news conference in Mineola.

Gottfried (D-Manhattan) was joined by labor leaders, church officials and health care professionals for the fifth of six public hearings held across the state on his New York Health Act.

Gottfried said the federal Affordable Care Act has made significant improvements to the existing health care system but its “fundamental flaw” is that it leaves too many health care decisions in the hands of for-profit insurance companies.

The bill, which is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled State Senate, would eliminate health coverage provided by insurance companies, including premiums, copays and out-of-network charges and replace it with a centralized taxpayer-funded system.

The program would be funded based on the patient’s ability to pay and would eliminate the “local share” of Medicaid paid by municipalities, Gottfried said before the hearing.

“New York as a state, as a community, as a family can and must do better,” Gottfried said.

Nassau County spends $300 million per year in public employee health benefits, including $236 million for their local share of Medicaid. Under the Health Act, the New York health plan would take over the county’s local share of Medicaid, putting the $236 million back in the county’s coffers and enabling them to cut property taxes, Gottfried said.

Michael Healy, a registered nurse at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, said the current insurance-run health care system does not value prevention and has not willingly provided reimbursement to medical professionals for preventive health care.

“We have reached a tipping point in how we deliver health care services in this state,” said Healy,” a member of the board of directors of the New York State Nurses Association. “The time has come to reorganize our system of care so the priority is patient need and not corporate profit.”

Among those scheduled to testify in favor of the bill are progressive groups, medical professionals and labor leaders.

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