Healthcare is a human right, and the only way to guarantee quality care and equitable access is to eliminate profit by creating a single-payer healthcare system in which every New Yorker has comprehensive health coverage regardless of age, income, employment, or immigration status. That means that the government, rather than health insurance companies, negotiates with providers, lowering overall costs and guaranteeing that everyone has access to healthcare.
It’s not acceptable that the New York Health Act, with a majority of co-sponsors, never came to a floor vote these past two years. Healthcare should be guaranteed to every New Yorker and free at the point of service. We need to stop insurance companies’ billion-dollar profiteering off of sick people.
We live in one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country in the world, yet people are dying because of lack of healthcare access, not pursuing necessary care due to prohibitive cost, and burdened with medical debt. This is unacceptable. As a socialist, I reject the idea that we cannot afford programs that support working-class people and the most vulnerable in our society. New York’s social services, including healthcare, are in desperate need of funds, and it is the responsibility of the state government to meet those needs.
New Yorkers are currently living at the intersection of multiple health crises. There have been nearly 70,000 COVID-19 deaths in New York State alone, and access to testing and treatment is still essential. Yet, despite surges and new variants, the number of NYC Health + Hospitals testing sites were cut in half citywide from mid-February to mid-April in 2022, leading to substantially decreased availability of testing, as private PCR tests remain inaccessible to many due to cost and insurance barriers.
Similarly, while the monkeypox virus spread in New York State, despite a working vaccine, distribution of said vaccine has been unequal and inefficient, with websites for booking appointments crashing and clinics running out of vaccine. We have vaccines and treatment available for COVID-19 and monkeypox, so the continued impact these viruses are having on New Yorkers’ health is both avoidable and unconscionable.
It is absolutely vital that we invest in and support our healthcare workers; patients are safer and healthier when care workers have safe, fair working conditions and fair wages. This past year we won important legislation (S1168A) that established clinical staffing committees in order to ensure sufficient staffing of hospital personnel to protect workers and care recipients alike.
Still, the fight continues for healthcare for all and more universal worker protections. Our healthcare system should promote dignity for all and be a centerpiece of our vision for an economy that runs for the many, not the few.
As State Senator, I will continue to fight for:
Healthcare for All
Today, our health system produces enormous inequities in the quality of care afforded to different people: our healthcare system is segregated by income and race, forcing poor and working-class New Yorkers into understaffed, underfunded hospitals and clinics with overly long wait times (or forcing them to go without care at all), while well-funded private hospitals take tax cuts and pay their executives millions while doing nothing to improve community health. We must change that by:
- Pass The New York Health Act (NYHA). I believe in a society where healthcare is provided to all, and treated as a human right rather than as a commodity. The NYHA (S5474) would replace private insurance with a single-payer public option that automatically covers every New Yorker. Our current system is not working: Over one million New Yorkers are uninsured and millions more are underinsured. Healthcare is a matter of life and death, and no insurance company or boss should have control of the healthcare someone can receive. The state can and should guarantee that every New Yorker has free, quality healthcare.
- Guarantee coverage for all. Currently, 154,000 New Yorkers are uninsured because of their immigration status. Federal programs like Medicaid currently exclude undocumented immigrants. As a result, many delay care or avoid it altogether. Coverage for All (S1572A) would create a state-funded Essential Plan for all New Yorkers making up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, irrespective of immigration status.
- Repeal the Global Medicaid Cap. New Yorkers deserve a well funded state health program that ensures quality care for all, regardless of their ability to pay. Removing this arbitrary spending limit will ensure better quality care and pave the way to expanding Medicaid to broader segments of the population, which is vital to address the unaffordability of healthcare for middle-income families.
- Indigent Care Pool Reform. Since 1983, New York has had a dedicated fund to ensure that safety-net hospitals serving a large portion of poor New Yorkers were able to continue their work. Unfortunately, for the past several years this fund has been manipulated to to pour funding into hospitals that do not serve poor communities, starving hospitals in working-class communities of vital funding. S5954 will change the funding distribution to ensure that safety-net hospitals that need additional funding are the ones that are getting it.
Real Reproductive Justice
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is one that threatens the health and rights of millions of working people across the country. At least eight states have banned abortions without exception for rape or incest and more than half of states will effectively ban or fundamentally limit this fundamental right to bodily autonomy.
While establishment Democrats tell us to donate and vote to safeguard our rights, we know that we need people power, worker power, and the power of a mass movement that is willing to fight back is the only way to truly defend and safeguard this fundamental right.
- Abortion should be free on demand and without apology. But the notion of reproductive justice goes beyond ensuring the right to abortion. Reproductive justice is rooted in access to a full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including abortion; not just an empty promise of “choice” that ignores the systemic barriers that prevent poor people and people of color from accessing essential health services. Reproductive justice calls for access to contraception; comprehensive sex education; STI prevention and care; prenatal, pregnancy, and postpartum care; alternative birth options; domestic violence assistance; parental leave; child care; and so much more.
Healthcare for the LGBTQI+ Community
It is no secret that our healthcare system in this country is broken, which is why I have fought tirelessly to pass the New York Health Act (S5474) to establish a single-payer system in New York State. But the ramifications of this broken system often weigh most on LGBTQI+ communities—particularly communities of color—and while we continue the fight for single-payer in New York State, there are significant steps we can take to provide real healthcare for our LGBTQI+ community.
- Mandate social services to distribute educational materials pertaining to sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention. The fight against AIDS/HIV has deep roots in New York State, and although significant strides have been made in the treatment and prevention of HIV, low-income individuals and those with limited resources are still disproportionately at risk of contracting the virus. Far too often, new infections stem from lack of education regarding HIV-prevention and treatment options or lack of access to care. Nonetheless, many Medicaid health plan members are not receiving sexual health and HIV prevention education services that address PEP and PrEP. Populations at higher risk of becoming HIV+, including young same gender loving/MSM/gay/bi men of color, transgender women of color, and women of color, will benefit from additional information about HIV preventative measures. Passing S7618 would require social services to distribute educational materials pertaining to sexual health, including information on HIV prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis to individuals enrolled in Medicaid, while protecting the privacy of individuals considered part of high-risk populations as well as every individual’s medical history.
- Establish an LGBTQI+ youth and young adult suicide prevention task force. In New York State, suicide is the third leading cause of death in those ages 10–24—and LGBTQI+ youth are at a dramatically higher risk of death by suicide and suicidal ideation. According to the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQI+ Youth Mental Health, 45% of LGBTQI+ teens (ages 13–17) seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. And 18% actually made a suicide attempt. That’s more than twice the rate of suicide attempts among all US teens, which is 9%. Establishing a task force (S3083) is one of many steps we must take to provide meaningful support and mental health services to our youth and young LGBTQI+ adults and to begin to understand the complex causes of mental illness in youth, particularly LGBTQI+ youth, and to better address ways to alleviate those causes.
Dignity and Fair Pay for Healthcare Workers
As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, many healthcare workers are working over 80 hours a week in understaffed hospitals or clinics. In the home-care sector, many workers are underpaid and overworked without protections. These workers deserve robust protections and fair pay for their essential work. We must pass:
- Fair Pay for Home Care. For many of our seniors, especially working-class seniors, options for quality long-term care are very limited. The care offered at nursing homes and Adult Care Facilities are often sites of mistreatment, neglect, and abuse, as well as loneliness and pain for isolated older people and people with disabilities. In the wake of the scores of preventable nursing home deaths in 2020, New York needs to invest in expanding access to Home Care, and ensure that seniors who are able can remain in their homes and communities well into their lives. Fair Pay for Home Care (S5374A) guarantees dignity for patients and workers by raising the minimum wage of home care, which will boost the availability of Home Care services while also improving the lives of those predominantly women of color working in the field who dedicate their lives to care for our elderly.
- Ending mandatory 24-hour shifts for home-care workers. New York is currently experiencing a massive shortage in the availability of long-term care, harming both our seniors and the workers who provide those services. In some cases, the hours required of home care workers serving the poorest communities can be outright abusive, demanding significant unpaid work. S359A would overturn this egregious reality, requiring 24-hour care cases be staffed in two 12 hour shifts, and further protect workers against employer retaliation. As our state faces a growing population in need of long-term care, this bill will ensure fair compensation for home-care workers and better care for home-care recipients.
- Set limits on for-profit nursing homes. Forty-two percent of long-term care recipients in New York State receive their care in nursing homes—two-thirds of which are for-profit. The widespread corruption in the management of New York’s for-profit nursing homes was revealed during New York’s COVID-19 response, when thousands of elderly New Yorkers died after former Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed patients into for-profit nursing homes. The State must now act to limit for-profit nursing homes; S05269 directs the Public Health and Health Planning Council to deny the construction or expansion of any for-profit nursing homes.
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