Universal health insurance bill introduced

Thomas K. Duane

May 05, 2009

Poughkeepsie Journal: Universal health insurance bill introduced

ALBANY — Two lawmakers today introduced a bill to provide government-financed universal health insurance in New York. But a vote on the proposal this year is unlikely.

The Assembly sponsor, Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, said he thinks the plan would actually be $20 billion to $30 billion cheaper than the $100 billion New Yorkers now pay for private coverage, plus co-pays and deductibles.

“We can get better coverage, get all of us covered and save billions by having New York offer a publicly sponsored health-coverage option, like Medicaid or Child Health Plus, but for everyone,’’ Gottfried said.

The idea is to finance it by a Social Security-style payroll tax, plus a surcharge on the unearned income of wealthy people. But he said the rates haven't been worked out yet.

Gottfried said the plan won't be voted on this year, but presenting it now is meant to influence the thinking of Gov. David Paterson, who is expected to come out with a plan later this year or next.

Although the bill is still a long shot to be enacted, it does have this year for the first time a majority-party sponsor in the Senate, Health Committee Chairman Tom Duane, D-Manhattan. And the state Medical Society, while not endorsing the bill, does favor getting coverage for the uninsured and providing more competition to private insurers.

Congress is also expected to consider this fall a national universal plan, the idea of which President Obama has said he supports.

The concept of the Gottfried-Duane bill is unrealistic, said a Leslie Moran, a spokeswoman for the New York Health Plan Association, a trade group for private insurers.

“You can’t cover everybody if you want to cover everything,’’ she said. “There simply isn’t enough money in the system.’’