Stop stalling on single-payer


To the editor:

“Unethical.” “Politically wrong, morally wrong.”

That is how Ban Ki-moon, former secretary general to the United Nations, described U.S. health care in a Guardian interview on Sept. 25. For the same of Americans, Mr. Ban hopes “either California or New York … will introduce (a single-payer) system.”

On the same day, NPR’s Brian Lehrer featured a debate on the New York Health Act between Hudson Valley senate candidate Pete Harckham and Chris Pope, a fellow at the Mercer Koch-sponsored Manhattan Institute.

Mr. Ban focuses on universal human needs. The New Yorkers focused on economics. The Guardian interview illustrates a hard-to-face truth: The foreign press — scandalized by both the expense and the inhumanity of current U.S. health care — wonders at delays in passing legislation that would bring universal, comprehensive, affordable health care to every New Yorker.

The Riverdale Press — both responding to readers and offering leadership — has consistently advocated for the legislation (passed overwhelmingly by the Assembly last year, and short one vote in the senate).

On NPR, Mr. Pope used Orwellian “newspeak” to argue that techniques which increase insurance profits actually save money for taxpayers. The casual listener probably assumes “claims reviews” occur after treatment, rather than being “prior authorizations” — designed to cut insurer costs by delaying or denying procedures and medications.

Mr. Pope also insisted that “out-of-pocket costs,” which have skyrocketed faster than premiums over the past two decades, save money by reducing “utilizations” (even, according to a recent NBC report, by people on Medicare) — sugar-coating our avoiding medical appointments, delaying tests, cutting back on medications — “savings” that exacerbate conditions and cause 40,000 deaths nationally each year.

Finally, Mr. Pope lauded “networks,” arbitrary rules that allow patients to see only doctors approved by insurers, whether or not they have needed expertise. Across New York, networks limit patient choice, often dramatically increasing medical bills and lowering physicians fees. All these “save money” by reducing necessary health care.

How much do they “save”? Enough to pay the average insurance CEO a meager $28.5 million per year. When Gov. Cuomo proposed a one-time 14 percent “windfall tax” on the insurance industry because of the 40 percent tax cut it got from the federal government overhaul in 2017, it was defeated in the senate, the same body that has kept the Health Act locked in committee for years.

Alessandra Biaggi faces a tough battle to pass New York Health in the senate next spring.

How can you help?

Do what you did to help Biaggi topple the Independent Democratic Conference kingpin: grassroots action. Elect allies by unseating Republican candidates in neighboring districts. Talk about New York Health with your neighbors. Bring New York Health pledges for your doctors to sign. Check out ThisIsTheBronx to understand the suffering cause by broken health care.

Join the movement at NYHCampaign.org.

Barbara Estrin

Barbara Estrin