Universal health care clears first hurdle in New York state

May 29, 2015

Central New York boosters of universal health care are celebrating this week, after the state Assembly passed the New York Health Act.

The legislation would provide universal, comprehensive health care to all New Yorkers.

“What it means is -- basically -- when you’re born, you have health insurance,” says retired physician Joal Potash. He volunteers at free medical clinics in Syracuse.

Potash says this kind of universal health care also means there wouldn’t be premiums, co-pays or deductibles, things he sees sometimes getting in the way of medical care -- even with the Affordable Care Act in place. 

"It is very worrisome to see people who need health care who can’t get it, can’t afford it and end up in the emergency room, which is ten times more expensive,” Potash says. “That’s not a good way to have medical care.”

This is the first time this universal health care bill has been on the floor of the state Legislature since 1992. Syracuse Green Party leader Ursula Rozum says the Senate still needs to approve the bill to bring it to the governor’s desk, and that’s a big hurdle.  But she’s optimistic.

"We’re hoping that in the next couple of years that the Senate will see that this is something New Yorkers want, and the New York State Senate will come out in support of this,” Rozum says.

Supporters of universal health care see this vote as an indicator of growing political support for a comprehensive one-payer health care system in the state.