Albany Times Union

By Casey Seiler, State Editor

ALBANY — Proponents of single-payer health care are asking Gov. David Paterson and the state Legislature to take another look at the concept following the release of a taxpayer-funded report that, advocates claim, demonstrates the advantages of moving to a so-called “Medicare-for-all” system.

The report “found that single-payer health care was the most cost-effective approach to providing health care to all New Yorkers,” said Mark Dunlea of Hunger Action Network, who was joined at a Tuesday news conference by representatives of other groups in the Single Payer New York coalition.

Using the report’s data, Dunlea extrapolated that a single-payer model would by 2019 save as much as $20 billion off the cost of the current system.

The report was commissioned two years ago by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer as an element of the “Partnership for Coverage” initiative, an effort to reduce the number of New Yorkers without health insurance, a segment that currently makes up 16 percent of the population. It was released jointly by Health Commissioner Richard Daines and acting Insurance Superintendent Kermitt Brooks, and conducted by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan public policy think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Dunlea wryly noted that the report, delayed more than a year from its initial deadline, ended up being released on July 17, on a Friday afternoon following the state Senate’s marathon final session — a rollout almost guaranteed to result in minimal news coverage.

“We hope this is not a sign that the governor’s office was trying to bury the findings of the report,” said Dunlea, who said Paterson has spoken in support of a single-payer system.

“We released the report when it was done,” said Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook.

Hook said the governor has taken numerous steps to expand state health care programs — including expanding eligibility for Child Health Care Plus to 400 percent of the poverty level — despite the fiscal difficulties facing the state. As recently as last week, Paterson sent a letter to members of Congress outlining what he sees as basic guidelines for a national health care reform package.

“The idea that we don’t want to talk about this issue is simply not accurate,” Hook said.

The Urban Institute studied four basic types of reform approaches, ranging from a single-payer system to a market-based strategy that relies on deregulation and tax credits. Three of these types of reforms, the report’s authors argue, would achieve universal coverage, while the market-based approach would leave more than 13 percent of New Yorkers uninsured.

The report found that, although the single-payer plan would achieve the greatest savings, it would also have by far the highest cost to government: more than $21,000 per newly insured New Yorker annually.

Single-payer advocates will hold a mass demonstration on Thursday in Washington, D.C., where Senate leaders are in closed-door talks to the final shape of a reform asked by President Barack Obama.

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