Green Party candidates for Syracuse mayor and common council are rallying support for a universal health insurance plan that’s now one vote shy of support in the state senate. The New York Health Act is a single public payer system financed by progressively graduated taxes on payrolls and non-payroll income such as capital gains and interest. Mayoral candidate Howie Hawkins says federal funds for Medicaid, Medicare, and the family and child health plus programs would be folded in, resulting in savings for all but the wealthiest New Yorkers.
"For 98 percent of New Yorkers, they would pay less for health care than they do now, especially those who make less than $100,000.”
District council candidate Rahzie Seals counts herself among that group. She works as a night auditor at a hotel.
"The insurance offered to me is costly. I get paid every week, just over minimum wage. Insurance alone is over $130 out of my check. I need this health plan. People in my district need this health plan."
The single public payer plan would not only help individuals. Hawkins says it could also solve Syracuse’s looming fiscal crisis.
"The city operating budget would save $42 million. The school district would save $38 million. That's $80 million in savings for the whole city. The city's recurring structural deficit is $15 million. As you probably know, we're within a year or two of going insolvent.”
Hawkins says the plan would have an even bigger impact on the county level.
"The New York Health Act would cover the unfunded mandate for Medicaid, which is $98 million this coming year, according to the county budget. And, they would save $54 million on the cost of their current health care employees.”
He says that should appeal to Senator John DeFrancisco, who’s seen as a deciding vote on passage in his chamber.
“We know John DeFrancisco opposes unfunded mandates. Here's his chance to get the biggest one off the county budget.”
DeFrancisco, a republican, is the lone local holdout. The health care plan has the support of Senator Dave Valesky, and Assemblymembers Pam Hunter and Bill Magnarelli, all democrats. It was approved by a margin of two to one in the assembly last week. Governor Cuomo has not indicated where he stands on the legislation.