We're still waiting for universal health care


When it comes to finally passing the New York Health Act, senate Democrats are really taking it on the chin.

A recent story by The Nation reporter Raina Lipsitz claims the upper chamber has no intentions of even bringing universal health care to the floor for a vote, beckoning us back to the days of the not-so-distant past when the senate was controlled by Republicans.

According to Lipsitz, it’s Andrew Cuomo’s political machine churning once again, even with his Independent Democratic Conference shield gone. And maybe it is.

A primary plank in Alessandra Biaggi’s primary senate campaign against former IDC leader Jeffrey Klein was finally pushing the New York Health Act to reality. But once new majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins administered the oath of office to Biaggi, she walked back a couple steps, telling The Riverdale Press that this is such a society-changing plan, it can’t be rushed.

“I think some of the trickiness with the New York Health Act is the fact that it would require waivers from the federal government,” Biaggi said at the time. “Obviously, we are not being led by someone who is reasonable, so it’s probably unlikely that our president at this time would give New York State a waiver for Medicare and Medicaid, and that’s a barrier for getting this done.”

Biaggi also made it clear that whatever state ultimately leads the charge on universal health care — especially if it’s New York — it has to be done right the first time, because there is only going to be one real shot at it. Having it now would be great — but not if it’s a mess.

Some in the Assembly want to snicker a bit behind the scenes because the senate was elected with a mandate to pass universal health care, and it still hasn’t happened. But then again, who is the Assembly to throw stones?

The New York Health Act hasn’t left committee in the senate, but it’s stuck in the same limbo on the Assembly side as well. The Assembly points to the previous years where it voted overwhelmingly to pass universal health care only to have it stall in the senate.

But what’s stopping an Assembly vote this time? Some might say it’s because of the very thing Lipsitz reported — the senate has put the kibosh on the health act, at least for this session. But then again, the senate wasn’t even talking about the New York Health Act during the Klein days, yet the Assembly voted and made a statement.

Why isn’t that happening now? What better way to pressure the senate into taking action than by taking action yourself? It would be hard for senators to tuck the New York Health Act away if the Assembly calls a vote.

But it’s not happening for the same reason Assembly members are quietly blaming the senate for. They are not immune to Cuomo, and until they prove otherwise, they have no stone to cast.