New York City to offer health care to all residents, mayor says

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York City plans to install the first comprehensive health care system in the nation, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

The Democratic mayor said the new program NYC Care will pay for the health care insurance costs for 600,000 city residents who do not have coverage, making it the largest city in the nation to guarantee coverage for patients. 

“We recognized that health care is not just in theory a right. It’s in practice a right,” de Blasio said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Republicans in Washington are trying to tear down health care. We are doing just the opposite.”

The proposal, he said, would cost about $100 million a year and expand upon the city’s public option plan, as well as the state’s robust health care exchange that enrolls about 4.6 million New Yorkers through the federal Affordable Care Act.

Some state lawmakers are pushing the entire state to adopt comprehensive health care, saying that although it would cost the state billions of dollars, it would be the most cost-effective way to ensure health coverage for residents.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and some Democrats in the majority have been skeptical of the proposal, saying the cost could double the state’s roughly $170 billion budget and require new taxes.

De Blasio said the city doesn’t plan to raise taxes on residents because the cost and the program itself would be phased in over several years.

He said the city’s uninsured are mainly young people who don’t think they need insurance, those who can’t afford it or undocumented immigrants who cannot access health insurance.

The program will launch this summer in the Bronx and be fully implemented over two years across the city, he said. It will include call lines and online help for patients to sign up for doctors’ appointments.

Immigrant groups were among the groups that praised the city’s actions, saying the federal government has sought to strip away services under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

“At a time when immigrants and healthcare are under attack by the federal government, Mayor de Blasio has stepped up to the plate big-time with NYC Care,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

The plan, though, may ultimately be modest because New York and the city already offer a variety of programs to help the uninsured, wrote Bill Hammond, director of health policy for the Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank in Albany.

“The total price tag for the plan, when fully implemented, was said to be $100 million a year, a fraction of what the city and state already spend on health care for the poor and uninsured,” Hammond wrote.

De Blasio, though, said the expansion of health-care services will help New Yorkers and ultimately drive down costs.

When uninsured New Yorkers get sick, “they are going to the emergency room. It’s the worst way to get health care. It’s the most expensive way to get health care,” de Blasio said.

Spector is Gannett’s Albany Bureau chief

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