If you thought the debate about health care was limited to the U.S. Congress and Washington, D.C., think again. As the dispute over public-versus-private rages on, state legislatures are proposing their own bills — and New York is no exception. The Empire State’s policymakers have the ability to enact changes that would have a deep and swift impact across the state and here in Westchester, from Yonkers to White Plains to Peekskill.
The latest push for single-payer health care here in New York is titled, simply, the New York Health Act. It’s hardly a new idea: the proposed legislation has successfully passed the state’s Democrat-majority assembly for multiple years. But the bill hasn’t found enough support in the Senate. And so, this past June, once again, the bill failed to move forward.
This is good news for both Westchester employers and employees. Of course, the idea of making health care more accessible and affordable for all is laudable. But the New York Health Act — like many similar bills in other states — is far from perfect. And if passed as-is, we in the Hudson Valley would quickly feel our pocketbooks become far lighter, with no discernable improvement to our medical care. Here’s why.
Firstly, a single-payer model doesn’t address the biggest, thorniest issue of all: delivering health care here in New York — and Westchester specifically — is expensive. The inefficiencies inherent in the current system, where emphasis is put on volume, as opposed to value, leads to the high cost of health care and, subsequently, high health insurance rates. Shifting the bill to taxpayers won’t solve this issue. What’s really needed is reform across the health care industry: better preventative care, more education and value-based insurance design.
Speaking of taxpayers: Were the New York Health Act to move forward, Westchester residents would suddenly see an alarmingly steep tax hike. Indeed, research shows that the cost to transition into a single-payer system would require extraordinary funding — as in, tens of billions more annually. According to a recently reported analysis from the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, the single-payer health plan would result in a $226 billion tax hike.
Westchester County has the second-highest per capita income of all New York counties — just over $70,000, according to census data. (New York City has the highest, at $111,000, and third and fourth are Nassau and Putnam, respectively.) And so, as a result, Westchester residents would be responsible for a big chunk of that hefty tax increase.
Another problem? The New York Health Act would radically reshape and diminish a whole slate of industries — many of which call Westchester home. Everything from our hospitals and palliative care facilities to our FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) businesses would experience a sea change. And as many of these businesses shrink or leave the state, those who remain take on an even bigger tax burden. Westchester could see a major talent and revenue drain as businesses and professionals migrate across state borders to competing metro areas like Stamford or Paramus, New Jersey.
It’s clear that the New York Health Act — however noble its intentions — would disrupt Westchester’s residents and businesses more than benefit them. The cost — in actual dollars, but also intellectual capital — is simply too high. Indeed, Westchester residents need only to look at other states where similar proposals fell flat, like our neighbor to the northeast, Vermont. Instead, our lawmakers would be wise to pursue a different route: rather than shifting the high costs of health care from the private sector to the taxpayers, they should seek to simply bring down the costs. We believe that the integration of existing public plans with market-based solutions is the most economically effective and responsible means of making affordable and quality health care accessible to everyone. Let’s change how we deliver health care (more preventative care, and an investment in quality) to make Westchester residents — and all New Yorkers — healthier.
James D. Schutzer is vice president of JDM Benefits (jdmbenefits.com) in White Plains. He can be reached at 914-644-9232.