• From the President's Desk: Single Payer Healthcare

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    On May 29th, the Chamber presented a special program made possible by Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield. While I was pleased to see a number of our Members businesses attending this special forum, I was also disappointed that more businesses didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about this potentially damaging legislation. So, I thought I would share some of the program’s vital information in the interest of reaching more of our Members.

    What is a single payer healthcare system?
    In a single payer healthcare system, rather than multiple competing health insurance companies, a single public or quasi-public agency (ie. Government) takes responsibility for financing healthcare for all residents. That is, everyone has health insurance under one health insurance plan and has access to necessary services — including doctors, hospitals, long-term care, prescription drugs, dentists and vision care. However, individuals may still choose where they receive care. From this aspect, it’s a lot like Medicare, hence the U.S. single payer nickname “Medicare-for-all.”

    Proponents of this proposed legislation advocate that a single payer system would address several problems in the current U.S. system. Universal health coverage would be a major step towards equality, especially for our uninsured and underinsured Americans. Overall expenses and wasteful spending could be better controlled through cost control and lower administrative costs, as evidenced in other countries. Furthermore, a single payer system has more incentive to direct healthcare spending toward public health measures. At the same time, we must also recognize the potential tradeoffs of transitioning to a single payer system. Lengthy wait times and restricted availability of certain healthcare services (such as elective surgery or cosmetic procedures) are important criticisms. Despite its advantages, single payer will not ease the tension of balancing access, quality and cost in healthcare.

    What’s the downside of a single payer healthcare system? 
    The proposed legislation sounds good in theory but it would have a devastating impact on New York. The members of the State Legislature held a public hearing on May 28th to gather feedback and recommendations on the New York Health Act, a single payer system.

    While “free healthcare for all” sounds nice, it is not what New Yorkers will actually get. 
    Single payer would virtually destruct our entire healthcare system. New Yorkers would be forced to give up their current coverage and be forced to lump into a one-size-fits-all government-controlled system. The New York Health Act would create the largest state tax increase in U.S. history, with new taxes of more than $250 billion a year when fully implemented. These taxes would impact everyone, from small businesses to Wall Street. The job losses would have a ripple effect on local economies, some of which are already struggling. Tens of thousands of health insurance jobs would be eliminated with hundreds of thousands more healthcare related jobs impacted. Much of the savings assumed in New York Health Act are dependent upon major cuts to hospitals and doctors. The majority of hospitals in the State would face major funding cuts.

    According to Jessica Renner, Regional President for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, “This proposal would eliminate all private coverage that exists today and replace it with a government run health system that would result in the largest state tax increase in US history, the loss of thousands of jobs and significant cuts to hospital reimbursement.” Fortunately, this legislation did not receive approval to move forward but Excellus assures us that the legislation will return to the House floor when the House returns to session. Governor Cuomo has tentatively stated that he disapproves of the proposal, but should the legislation make it to his desk, he has suggested that he will “add things to it.” I’m not sure about you, but that statement alone causes me great concern and “agida!”

    This proposed healthcare system will be financed by employer taxes (payroll tax) - another financial burden that the Chamber does not believe our businesses deserve or can assume. We will continue to monitor this legislation with the voice and guidance of Excellus, but if you are interested in lending your voice to the opposition, I encourage you to visit The Realities of Single Payer Healthcare and add your name to the effort.
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