To the editor:
(re: “Leading the way to health justice,” April 15)
I share the conviction of Dr. Elizabeth Rosenthal that everyone should have access to quality, affordable health care. No patient should defer needed care for fear of a medical bill.
I also agree that employer-provided health insurance should not be consumers’ only option. As the past year has demonstrated, that puts access to health care at risk for some percentage of the population every time there is an economic downturn.
What Dr. Rosenthal doesn’t say is that New Yorkers already have multiple options for purchasing affordable coverage. Our state has one of the nation’s most robust health insurance programs. As a result, 95 percent of the population is already insured.
Not too long ago, the legislature acted to make public coverage even more affordable — waiving already low monthly premiums for the state’s essential plan for people with modest incomes. That will address the needs of some of the remaining 5 percent who are uninsured, but we can and should work together on solutions to fully close the gap.
We can achieve this without throwing our current health care system overboard. The New York Health Act, the proposal cited, would do just that, forcing New Yorkers out of their current Medicare or employer-sponsored coverage, and into a state-run plan. It also would be devastating for providers, assuming that reimbursement rates will be similar to those of Medicaid, the state-run plan we have now.
Medicaid only pays about two-thirds of what it costs to provide the care.
If every patient is covered by the state plan, and providers get paid one-third less than it costs to provide the services, how long will physician practices and non-profit hospitals be able to stay in business? The result will be replacing one problem with another: fewer providers, and so less access to care.
We should be building on New York’s great record of coverage expansion, not tearing it down.
The author is president and chief executive of Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State.