COVID-19 Experience Shows Strength of the Current New York Health Care System

By Heather C. Briccetti, Esq. | August 10, 2020

New York is currently facing a budget deficit of $14 billion, according to the latest calculations from the Governor’s office. Next year looks even worse, when the hole is estimated to be $16 billion. This widening gap is a direct result of the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on our economy.

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 crisis has put a strain on all across the state, and the deaths of more than 25,000 New Yorkers remains unfathomable. Nearing the six month mark in this state of emergency, New York has gone from being the epicenter of the crisis to being the best at controlling the virus and lowest in the rates of infections and hospitalization.

Part of New York’s swift and aggressive response to combat coronavirus has been the steps taken to ensure New Yorkers had access to critical health care services. This was possible because of our state’s success – before the pandemic hit – of achieving near universal health care coverage, with a public-private partnership that has enabled more than 95 percent of New Yorkers to be covered.

This ongoing partnership during the pandemic has been responsible for assuring patients have access to needed care – from testing and treatment for COVID-19 to swiftly shifting to and significantly increasing use of telemedicine services to providing financial flexibility to businesses and consumers to help them maintain coverage at a time when they need it most. These efforts underscore the strength of our current system and argue against those who advocate for a government-run, single payer health care system.

Advocates of a government-run system contend that it would have been able to respond more quickly and effectively to the pandemic than our current system. However, every major nation, regardless of how they fund their health care system, has been challenged with containing the virus.  Countries that have been successful in curbing the spread – including South Korea and Australia – implemented many of the same measures New York adopted to flatten the curve, such as requiring face coverings in public, limiting large gatherings, and restricting travel. They also have a mix of private and public insurance – just like New York.

There are some realities about the current crisis that would remain even under a government-run system. The shortage of personal protective equipment had nothing to do with the structure of our health care system. In fact, it was the private sector and government working together to quickly pivot to produce PPE and other materials that enabled New York to confront this crisis.

While advocates push for the New York Health Act, experts estimate that enacting a government-run health care system would require massive state tax increases of over $250 billion – more than double the current state budget. Much of the revenue needed would be shifted onto New York employers, resulting in significant job losses across the state, leaving government bureaucrats in charge and patients waiting longer for treatment with no guarantee that they could see the doctor or specialist of their choice.

The coronavirus pandemic is stressing health care systems and economies around the world, and creating challenges for New York in how to address the looming budget deficit and rebuild our economy. With businesses struggling to keep their doors open and unemployment at historic levels, now is not the time to compound the economic damage of COVID-19 by imposing higher taxes on our state’s employers and residents and taking choices away from patients and disrupting their care by passing the New York Health Act.

Heather Briccetti is president & CEO of The Business Council of New York State, which is a leading member of the Realities of Single Payer Coalition