New York’s progressive lawmakers are getting more ambitious with their plans for socialized medicine.
Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Ricardo Rivera, the chief sponsors of the New York Health Act, just expanded their proposal for installing the state government as the sole payer for health care in New York and outlaw private coverage. The new version of their bill would cover long-term care and home-support services — in addition to hospital stays and procedures, drugs, doctor’s appointments, and virtually every other medical service short of cosmetic surgery.
But the problem with the bill was never a dearth of benefits. It’s that the plan would impose crippling new taxes on New Yorkers to pay for it while reducing the quality of health care statewide.
The introduction of the New York Health Act in the state Assembly has become something of a tradition. The Assembly has considered it every session since 1992. And in each of the last four years, the Assembly actually passed the legislation — only to see it stall in the Republican-led Senate.
Now that Democrats have seized control of the upper chamber, the New York Health Act’s prospects have improved. Sadly, the content of the bill remains as preposterous as ever.
Consider the legislation’s exorbitant cost. A statewide single-payer system would require an additional $139 billion in tax revenue in 2022 alone, according to a recent analysis by the RAND Corporation. That estimate didn’t include the cost of long-term care, which would add between $18 billion and $22 billion to the annual tab. That brings the cost to roughly $160 billion.
To put that figure in perspective, the state will probably collect less than $90 billion in tax revenues in 2020. So to pay for the New York Health Act, the Empire State would have to nearly double its tax take.
New York is already one of the highest-taxed states in the nation. And much of its tax revenue comes from a relative handful of wealthy individuals. In 2016, New York City’s highest-earning 1% accounted for 51% of the entire state’s individual income tax receipts.
Moving across the Hudson River to New Jersey or up Interstate 95 to Connecticut — or even down the coast to Florida, where there is no state income tax — wouldn’t be much of a stretch for these 1 percenters. The New York Health Act could give them several billion reasons to do so.
The New York Health Act would also be enormously disruptive. The bill would create a single, government-run entity called New York Health, which would provide coverage to every state resident. The legislation would outlaw all forms of private insurance, whether provided by an employer or purchased on the individual market.
Patients currently covered by programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program would also be swept into the new system. Every New Yorker would be forced to give up his or her current plan.
The New York Health Act puts the government in control of nearly every aspect of health care — a level of bureaucratic control that has proven disastrous for patients everywhere it has been tried.
Take Canada, where I grew up. The single-payer system there routinely subjects patients to lengthy, sometimes life-threatening treatment delays. Last year, Canadian patients seeking specialist care waited a median of 19.8 weeks for treatment after being referred by their general practitioners.
Or note how the United Kingdom’s 70-year old government-run health system, the National Health Service, is continually plagued by mismanagement, personnel shortages, and rationing. More than 4 millionNHS patients are currently waiting for non-urgent procedures.
Or look at the disastrous effects of government-run health care in New York City’s 11 public hospitals. These hospitals account for seven of the state’s 10 longest emergency-room wait times. Patients who rely on this hospital system must wait up to two weeks for a primary-care appointment and can wait up to three months to see a specialist. The system is expected to run a $1 billiondeficit through 2021.
The new, more generous version of the New York Health Act would cause chaos throughout the Empire State and inevitably lead to rationing. Yet lawmakers don’t seem to care. The bill has attracted support from a majority of both the Assembly and the state Senate.
That could change. Several public-sector labor unions in the state are worried about their members losing their gold-plated coverage under the New York Health Act. Given the level of political power that organized labor wields in the Empire State, the bill could die before it reaches Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk.
The governor has said that he’d prefer to see single-payer implemented at the national level. He isn’t willing to commit economic seppuku.