Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

By Heather Senison, Gannett Albany Bureau

ALBANY — Health care reform advocates on Tuesday called on the governor and the Legislature to propose a single-payer universal health care system in New York.

The advocates were responding to a report released by the state Health and Insurance Departments on July 17 that studied four types of health care reform, including a single-payer system. Mark Dunlea, executive director of the Hunger Action Network and co-chairman of Single Payer New York, both reform advocacy organizations, said according to the study, a single-payer system would save the state $20 billion annually by 2019. “It found that single-payer health care was the most cost-effective approach to providing health care to all New Yorkers,” Dunlea said. “It clearly was the one that provides health coverage to everyone.”

The other options studied in the report by the Urban Institute were developing a public-private partnership to expand existing public programs and reform private health insurance; offering the state’s Family Health Plus program for low-income residents to all New Yorkers; and creating a “Freedom Plan” that would depend on regulatory flexibility and tax credits to boost coverage.

Under the Freedom Plan, 13.3 percent of New Yorkers would be uninsured, compared with 15.7 percent today.

A proposal similar to the public-private plan is being debated in Congress, and Gov. David Paterson has said he wants to work with President Barack Obama to come up with a national solution.

A single-payer system has strong opposition, particularly from insurance companies, which would not play a role in the system.

A spokeswoman for the New York Health Plan Association, an industry representative of more than 30 health plans in the state, said the advocates are promoting their analysis, not conclusions written in the report.

Moran said the association does not support a single-payer system because “we believe that there is a role for private as well as public options.”

“If you look at state reports on Medicaid Managed Care and Child Health Plus, they show that health plans have been able to reduce costs while improving quality of care for those populations,” Moran said.

Dunlea said the state report was not explicit regarding calculations of savings. “While we believe this report understates the savings from single-payer and overstates the benefits from the public-private hybrid models, we are pleased that it finds that single-payer is the most cost-effective approach,” he said.

In the meantime, until the Legislature comes back into session and Paterson can propose a new health care program, the advocates asked state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to further analyze the fiscal implications in the report, such as research into how much money a single-payer program would save local governments.The comptroller received the request from the advocates, but it will be looking at the implications of the actions at the federal level and not the state level, Jennifer Freeman, a spokeswoman for DiNapoli, said Tuesday.

The comptroller received the request from the advocates, but it will be looking at the implications of the actions at the federal level and not the state level, Jennifer Freeman, a spokeswoman for DiNapoli, said Tuesday.

Single Payer New York has asked the Assembly and Senate health care committees to hold hearings around the state on the results of the study.

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