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Long Island News

New York legislators of color push for single payer health insurance following COVID report

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New York lawmakers with the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus joined the Campaign for New York Health on Wednesday to release a report on healthcare and racial equity.

The report found that New Yorkers who are Black, Indigenous and people of color were disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic due to an unequal ability to access affordable health care.

Catalina Cruz, a Democratic state Assemblymember, said the pandemic forced people to struggle to balance medical costs and cost of living.

“Over the last year, we had people who had to choose to go get help because I possibly have COVID or do I pay my rent,” Cruz said.

The caucus is calling on the state Legislature to pass the New York Health Act and end medical debt before the close of the 2022 session. The New York Health Act would provide comprehensive, universal health coverage for every New York resident with the option of replacing private insurance company coverage.

Private health plans would be banned from offering “duplicative” services under the plan. Since all patient care, drug, dental, vision and long-term care would be covered, private health plans would effectively be obsolete. Employers would be taxed for the statewide plan coverage through a payroll tax.

State Senator Jessica Ramos co-sponsored this bill. She said the pandemic exacerbated the need for the legislation.

“Listen, if the pandemic wasn’t a lesson that taught us the person sitting next to us on the subway should be as healthy as possible, then I don't know what else it will take — what other tragedy must we go through, how many more lives must we lose?” Ramos said.

The report also said systemic solutions like a universal, single-payer health plan will improve healthcare access for all.