We will probably have universal healthcare in this country within our lifetimes.
If you’re a New York City resident, though, you needn’t wait any longer.
Although not the single-payer model most Democrats in Washington favor, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent initiative guarantees every New Yorker the opportunity to receive medical treatment through the city’s public hospitals system, regardless of income level.
The mayor announced last week:
“From this moment on in New York City, everyone is guaranteed the right to health care. We are saying the word guarantee because we can make it happen.”
He said on MNBC’s “Morning Joe”:
“We recognized that obviously health care is not just in theory a right. We have to make it in practice a right, and we’re doing something about that here in this city. Republicans in Washington are trying to tear down health care…We are doing just the opposite.”
The inevitable question most then ask is, “How is he going to pay for it?”
Most New Yorkers will still receive their coverage through existing means–their employers, Medicare, Medicaid, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Borrowing from San Francisco‘s model, de Blasio seeks to bolster the city’s social safety net through a program called “NYC Care,” whereby any of the city’s 600,000 uninsured residents will be charged on a sliding scale to see primary care physicians in the hospital system’s 70 clinics.
To facilitate this, the city is providing hospitals $100 million every year and beginning an outreach campaign to educate the population about MetroPlus, the city’s Medicare-, Medicaid-, Obamacare-based health insurance plan.
In addition, the city will provide call centers and online assistance for patients to schedule doctors’ appointments.
About the plan, Katie Robbins, director of Campaign for New York Health, stated:
“People will hopefully know they have access to a primary care physician and can start there”.
Larry Levitt from the Kaiser Family Foundation said:
“Giving people direct access to care is not the same as an entitlement to comprehensive coverage. But, in a voluntary and fragmented insurance system like we have now, there will be people who fall through the cracks, and a more organized and accessible safety net makes sense for them.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and some Democrats criticize the proposal, though, claiming the cost could double the state’s roughly $170 billion budget and require new taxes.
De Blasio doesn’t intend to raise taxes. He argues there will be no need since the program will be phased in over two years, beginning in the Bronx this summer.
Bill Hammond, director of health policy for the Empire Center, an Albany-baed fiscally conservative think tank, supports De Blasio’s claim by stating:
“The total price tag for the plan, when fully implemented, was said to be $100 million a year, a fraction of what the city and state already spend on health care for the poor and uninsured.”
De Blasio added:
“They are [uninsured New Yorkers] going to the emergency room. It’s the worst way to get health care. It’s the most expensive way to get health care.”
Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, hailed the program:
“At a time when immigrants and healthcare are under attack by the federal government, Mayor de Blasio has stepped up to the plate big-time with NYC Care.”
Universal health care is coming.
New York City is taking the lead.
Image credit: Picserver