MONTICELLO — CSEA members have been hearing from our union for months about concerns related to the proposed New York Health Act.
During a plenary session that wrapped up the recent Southern Region Officers Weekend, two state lawmakers from the Hudson Valley and a health care expert took a deep dive into the topic to help CSEA activists better understand why the proposed legislation is problematic.
“We agree that all New Yorkers deserve access to affordable quality health care, but the proposed New York Health Act undermines decades of collective bargaining and could potentially drive quality health care providers out of our state,” said Southern Region President Anthony Adamo.
Knowing that there are concerns on both sides of the aisle, Adamo invited Republican Sen. Mike Martucci and Democrat Assemblymember Ken Zebrowski to speak to activists attending the region conference.
Joining Martucci and Zebrowski on the panel was Matt Leonardo, an attorney with the firm of Hinman Straub, P.C. who is an expert on health insurance. CSEA Political Action Coordinator Chris Ludlow moderated the discussion.
Among the concerns was the fact that the legislation is short on details and tasks the state Department of Health with actually fleshing out a program if the bill is signed into law.
While there are no exact costs available at this time, Zebrowski noted that studies have estimated the cost of the New York Health Act could double the state budget.
Of the roughly 20 million residents living in New York State, approximately 19 million are insured. Finding a plan to help that remaining 1 million is feasible without forcing the rest of New Yorkers off their current plans.
Martucci said a solution requires the precision of a scalpel to help those 1 million rather than the chainsaw approach.
“The New York Health Act is a chainsaw,” Martucci said.
Leonardo noted that the New York Health Act cannot be compared to the universal coverage in places such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Israel. Those are nationwide plans, while reimbursement rates with the New York Health Act could tempt providers to flee to neighboring states such as Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in search of higher reimbursements.
Also noted when discussing the possible doubling of the state budget was the fact that roughly 20 percent of taxes paid in New York State come from bonuses paid out to financial industry workers on Wall Street. Doubling the tax burden could cause many of those individuals to leave the state.
For members of CSEA and other unions, health insurance is a major component in the overall collective bargaining process. Many bargaining units in our union have opted to forego larger wage increases in exchange for maintaining robust health insurance coverage offered at an affordable rate.
Should health care be taken over by the state, a major part of our overall contract negotiations would disappear and undermine our bargaining strength.
— Jessica Ladlee