You are reading

Op-Ed: We Need to Pass the New York Health Act Now

Brent O’Leary volunteering at Elmhurst Hospital at the height of the pandemic in 2020

March 23, 2021 Op-Ed By Brent O’Leary

In our second year of pandemic life, having lost over half a million Americans lives, we face a cycle of surge and mutation alongside a significant burden of illness and deaths for years to come.

There has never been a more compelling time for health reform. We need to pass the New York Health Act now.

The New York Health Act will provide comprehensive health care coverage for every person who lives or works full time in New York State.

It is all too apparent how staggering injustices baked into our pre-pandemic norms cost us tremendously. While life expectancy dropped last year, that figure is twice as high for Latinos and three times higher among Black Americans. Our broader economy does not escape the generational damage done by deep-rooted disparities.

We need a functional healthcare infrastructure and to achieve that, decades of disinvestments aimed at our vulnerable communities must stop.

Our healthcare system fails at its most basic functions, despite being expensive and accelerating in cost.

Consider how patient care is based on insurance status instead of care standards. Basic benefits like paid sick days or parental leave are at discretion of employers.

Life choices like the freedom to work independently or start a business is limited because of fear of losing coverage or access to preferred providers. These arrangements are discordant with health goals or the needs of a rapidly changing workforce.

Despite increasing health insurance coverage, fewer people can afford care because of skyrocketing premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.

Brent O’Leary is a candidate running for the 26th district council seat

The result is delays in seeing a doctor until illness has progressed and require more intervention, by which point treatment is cost prohibitive. Profit tracks alongside illness severity, so that even the wealthy are just one accident or diagnosis away from significant asset loss.

This system is breaking our clinicians and healthcare workforce. Physicians increasingly can’t practice independently and find themselves expendable in a revenue-driven environment whose goals are at odds with health and wellness. Administrative tasks tied to insurance arrangements mean clinicians spend less and less time with patients.

The very subsidies that were designed to support our poorest zip codes are instead diverted to private hospitals serving the fewest but wealthiest patients. During a pandemic many healthcare workers were furloughed while community clinics and primary care practices were forced to close.

All of these are underscored by record profits at the height of the coronavirus emergency by insurance and hospital corporations, all consolidating to outcompete each other over the price of care. When profits are driven by disease and suffering, patients are no longer healthcare consumers. Patients in this system are products whose health status are commoditized.

The practice of profiteering off our suffering must stop. We must reclaim our resources.

Poll after poll show that New Yorkers support the ideas in the New York Health Act. Meaningful health reform is possible with this key legislation. It passed in our State Assembly four times. We must do it again and get it passed in the State Senate.

The New York Health Care Act by providing health care to all New Yorkers takes on the inequities and injustices in our healthcare system that were exploited by this coronavirus. It re-allocates resources to serve all New Yorkers, not just the wealthy.

It ensures access to primary care services, medically necessary testing, prescribed treatments and vaccines. Benefits such as parental or sick leave will no longer be tied to employment status or wealth and it removes the massive administrative overhead and bureaucracy, re-aligning the relationship of nurses and physicians back to patients.

It represents a shift in emphasis from illness-based care to preventive primary care, and focuses on helping New Yorkers achieve our most optimal health and well-being.

Balancing the New York State budget should not fall on the backs of the working class. To put this imperative into context, tremendous pressure on our healthcare system will only grow in the new Covid normal.

Worse, the social and economic corollaries from widening gaps in equity, access and affordability are being eclipsed by emergent crises. Exponential change can’t be addressed by conventional means. Equitable healthcare legislation is a bold and necessary action to safeguard our future.

For practicality, healthcare reform belongs to broader strategic conversations. Decades of brutal austerity measures devastated not just our public health infrastructure, it also destroyed other safety nets that we each paid into for just such events like a pandemic or extreme weather, when only a robust government response can protect us all.

New Yorkers deserve equitable opportunities toward health. We are at an inflection point. Serious threats will continue to push our healthcare system to the brink of collapse. I echo our Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi in asserting that this pandemic is both tragedy and testament to what can change when the will is there. I join this broad and rapidly growing coalition and movement, to demand fiscal equity and enact meaningful reform in healthcare.

Our strength in District 26 lies in our diversity, and we are only as strong as our most vulnerable. We owe ourselves and our youngest New Yorkers a shot at equitable opportunities towards health and wealth. The time to act is now. Join us in getting the New York Health Care Act passed.

Brent O’Leary is a candidate running for City Council in the 26th District

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Gunman who fired shots at the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City remains at large: NYPD

Police from the 114th Precinct in Astoria and PSA 9 are continuing their search for a gunman who allegedly opened fire at the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City last month.

The incident occurred during the early morning hours of Wednesday, Jan. 18, when officers responded to a 911 call and a ShotSpotter activation for multiple shots fired at 21-25 35 Ave. at the Ravenswood Houses NYCHA complex just after 2 a.m., according to authorities.

Popular places where you can watch the Super Bowl in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Long Island City teen sentenced in fatal shooting of ‘beloved’ school teacher at Queensbridge Houses in 2020: DA

A Long Island City man on Friday, Jan. 28, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the 2020 fatal shooting of a public school social studies teacher who was out walking his dog when he was caught in the crossfire during a confrontation between gang rivals in broad daylight, just blocks from his home, according to Queens District Attorney’s office.

Ike Ford, 19, of 12th Street, in Long Island City, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder. The teacher, George Rosa, 53, was shot in his abdomen by a stray bullet fired by Ford, who was just 17 years old at the time of the shooting but was sentenced as an adult given the severity of the crime, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.