Dick Gottfried Unveils Innovative Universal Health Plan

As Governor Eliot Spitzer is working to develop a plan for affordable, universal health insurance for all New Yorkers, Assembly Health Committee Chairperson Dick Gottfried unveiled his proposal  — New York Health Plus — in Manhattan yesterday.  

A wide range of people spoke in favor of the plan at Dick’s press conference, including yours truly. There’s a lot to like about New York Health Plus. Here’s a summary:


Who is covered?  Every New York resident would be eligible, regardless of age, income, where you work or whether you work.  But individuals and employers could choose not to participate.

What is covered?  Full comprehensive health and mental health benefits.

Can I choose my own plan?  Yes.  People would choose from any health plan that offers Family Health Plus.  (Child Health Plus would be merged into Family Health Plus.)

What do I pay?  Individuals and employers would not pay any premiums or deductibles, and co-payments under Family Health Plus are very limited.

Who pays for the Plan?  The plan would save about $4 billion of the $63 billion we now spend on premiums, deductibles and co-payments.  There are a variety of ways we could choose to raise the revenue.  What is key is that it must be fair, and must be separated from your individual coverage.

You can see a three-page summary HERE or the longer proposal HERE

Financing the plan would mean raising taxes, but that would be more than offset by the removal of employer and employee health insurance costs and deductibles.

A few of my remarks are germane:

We simply are a better society when we work for the good of all. For too many years, too many politicians and pundits have encouraged us to say “it’s all about me.”

No. it’s all about us, and if we take a moment to listen and look at what is in New York Health Plus, we see that everyone gets care, quality of care is high, and we all pay less. That’s what “it’s all about us” can do.

The “it’s all about me” folks will not be denied their say:

Leslie Moran, senior vice president of the New York Health Plan Association, said Gottfried’s plan is flawed. The association represents 30 health plans that cover 6 million New Yorkers.

“We don’t believe you can do everything through government programs,” Moran said. “When you expand the government role in providing health insurance you are also going to expand the cost to the state.”

While the plan is a good addition to the health care debate, Moran said, it does nothing to control rising health care costs.

While you consider the source, can you hear the knees jerking? Expansion of the state! Taxes!! Eeek!! Too bad Leslie Moran didn’t actually read the proposal.

The issue is much bigger than Moran’s diddling, the likes of which have contributed to fourteen years (and counting) of incremental baby-steps. I also said:

Martin Luther King Jr. made a point of saying that compassion equals more than charity. “On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial.”

People are being left by the roadside of health care. And that includes patients, providers, and institutions. True compassion cries out for sound public policy. Sound public policy no longer is the incremental public policy we have lived with since 1994.

We no longer can wait for the comfort zones of the privileged few to expand ever so slowly in order to accommodate the human rights of all. For years people have framed the goal of attaining the basic human right to health care in terms of incremental steps, while millions more people are uninsured and underinsured, and the numbers continue to escalate. If you would not take baby steps out of a burning building, you should not take baby steps out of this crisis of health care access. This is the time for bold steps, and I applaud Chairman Gottfried’s bold step forward today.

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