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Hundreds Gather in Albany to Launch Statewide Single Payer Health Care Coalition

New State Coalition Urges Lawmakers to Adopt a Single Payer Universal Health Care System

ALBANY, New York

Doctors, nurses, consumers and community activists from throughout
New York State came together in Albany today to create a statewide
coalition to push for adoption of a single payer health care system at
the federal and state levels. Single Payer NY
will help coordinate grassroots education and outreach activities in
support of single payer throughout the state. They already have county
coordinators in two dozen counties.

"The American people overwhelmingly want health care for all. Labor, including the NYS AFL-CIO, have said they want health care to be a right through passage of HR 676. A
majority of doctors now want a single payer national health care system
because they are fed up dealing with the bureaucracy, delay and
confusion of the private health care system. Everyone who studies the
issue says of course it makes sense to eliminate the huge waste and
expense of private health insurance. For once, we need elected
officials to do what is right for Americans, not what is right for the
insurance and drug companies," said stated Mike Keenan, President, Troy
Area Labor Council and a Vice President of the Capital District Area
Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. The Troy Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO represents 10,000 union members and their families in Rensselaer County. The Capital District Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO represents 100,000 union members throughout the Capital District Region.

A recent national survey by Indiana University of 2,193 doctors
found a solid majority, almost 60 percent, supporting government
legislation to establish national health insurance (NHI) - a 10 percent
increase in support since 2002. Public opinion polls have consistently
shown strong public support for a universal health care system. For
instance, a March 2007 poll by CBS/ NY Times
found that 64 percent of the respondents said the government should
guarantee health insurance for all; 27 percent said it should not. An
overwhelming majority in the poll said the health care system needed
fundamental change or total reorganization.

"It is critical that New York reform its dysfunctional system in
favor of one that guarantees health care access to all New Yorkers,"
said Tina Gerardi, RN, chief executive
officer of the New York State Nurses Association. "Access to
comprehensive, quality, affordable, health care is a right, not a
privilege, and must no longer be a function of income or employment
status. We wholeheartedly support the mission of the Single Payer New
York coalition to bring about change in the right direction."

HR 676 (Conyers), known as Medicare for all, has 91 cosponsors, including NY Congressional representatives Engel, Hinchey, Maloney, McNulty, Nader, Owens, Rangel, Serrano, Towns, Weiner and Velazquez.

Among the dozens of groups helping to create Single Payer New York
are: New York State Nurses Association, Troy Area Labor Council,
Capital District Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO,
Hunger Action Network of New York State Tompkins County Health Care
Task Force, Capital District Alliance for Universal Health Care, Health
Care-NOW, Albany Presbytery, various chapters of the Physicians for a
National Health Program, League of Women Voters of Saratoga County,
Long Island Coalition for a National Health Plan, Rochester Interfaith
Health Care Coalition, Green Party of NYS, and New York StateWide Senior Action

"The US spends more than twice as much on
health care as the average of other developed nations, all of which
boast universal coverage. Why is the U. S.
so different? The short answer is that we alone treat health care as a
commodity distributed according to the ability to pay, rather than as a
social service to be distributed according to medical need," said Mark
Dunlea, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of NYS.

"Instead of overcrowded emergency rooms, let's plan for easy access
to urgent care. Instead of harried doctors, let's begin a restoration
of physician and patient autonomy. Instead of medical debt forcing
medical students into specialties, let's have realistic and
compassionate medical education funding. A great nation deserves a
great healthcare system for all. Let us begin to create the system we
want and need," Richard Propp, MD, Chair Capital District Alliance for Universal Healthcare, Inc.

Nearly 50 million Americans are currently without health insurance,
more than 75 million went without insurance for some length of time
within the past two years, and tens of millions more have inadequate
coverage. More than 18,000 Americans die annually due to a lack of
insurance. Dr. Martin Luther KingJr. noted that "of all the forms of
inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."

It is estimated that a single payer national health care program
could save as much as $350 billion a year (New England Journal of
Medicine, 2003) by eliminating the system of private health insurance.
As much as a third of every health care dollar going through private
health insurance goes to pay for their overhead, profits, marketing
costs and excessive CEO salaries. Doctors on
average have to hire 2.5 staff people just to deal with the conflicting
paperwork, rules and bureaucracy of private health insurance.

A key point of Single Payer New York is that private forprofit
health insurance is a core problem and therefore can not be part of the
solution. Donna Smith was featured in Michael Moore's movie SICKO. She and husband were forced to move back in with their children due to their higher medical bill.

"Having health insurance no longer means having peace of mind. If
you get sick and you are insured you may find yourself underinsured or
worse - unable to get necessary care. You may have premiums rising so
high that you can no longer afford both housing and health insurance.
You may have deductibles and co-pays that effectively and efficiently
squeeze you away from seeking care. You may have collectors pursuing
medical debt hound you to the point of garnishment and humiliation - as
we did. You may have an employer that no longer wants you covered by
the group health insurance plan with rising premiums and huge
deductibles. And you may not know these things until in the grip of a
health care crisis with no options and no ability to dig out," said
Smith. "Half measures will not do. Universal, free health care must
become reality," she added.

"A prime benefit of a national single payer system is that it would
save several hundred billion dollars annually by eliminating the high
overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry.
Doctors and hospitals would be freed from the burdens and expenses of
paperwork created by having to deal with multiple insurers with
different rules - often rules designed to avoid payment," added Dunlea.
"We are the only industrialized country to allow for-profit insurance
companies to be middlemen in our health system. In their drive to
enroll healthy (and profitable) patients and screen out the sick,
private insurance waste vast sum on billing, marketing, underwriting,
utilization review and other activities that enhance profits but divert
resources from care and hassle patients and physicians," Dunlea added.

Single Payer is defined as financing health care expenditures for
the entire population through a single source, presumably the
government, with funds collected through progressive taxation of
citizens and businesses. While the groups want to see a single payer
system (e.g., HR 676) enacted at the federal
level, they are also urging the state to adopt a single payer system as
soon as possible. Single payer legislation (A7354 Gottfried / S3107 Schneiderman)
is pending in both the Assembly and Senate. A majority of Assembly
members (85) are co-sponsors of the single payer bill. This fall the
State will complete a study of the various ways to provide health care
to all. The Governor is then expected to make a recommendation to

While the United States has very skilled health providers, our
health care system performs poorly, with its overall quality only
ranked 37th by the World Health Organization. US
spending on health care is now over 2.1 trillion dollars - nearly
$7,000 per person. This is more the double the world average of $2,571.
This amounts to a whopping 15.5% of our GNP
on health care - far more than any other country - which puts our
businesses at a competitive disadvantage in the international

A number of state legislators issued statements in support of the organizing effort.

Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried said "H.R. 676 is
the best solution for America's health care system. Universal,
publicly-sponsored, and publicly-funded health coverage is the answer
for those who have coverage, for the uninsured, for health care
providers, for employers, and for taxpayers. It's the right thing to
do, whether nationally or at the state level."

"I am proud to support the formation of the Single Payer New York
coalition. The 2.6 million uninsured New Yorkers can't afford to wait
for a new Democratic president or a new Congress to get the health care
they deserve. It is imperative that New York State act now to ensure
that every New Yorker has access to high quality, affordable health
care. Working together through the Single Payer New York coalition, I
am hopeful that we can make universal health care a reality in New York
State," said Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, lead sponsor of the single payer bill in the State Senate. Gottfried is the lead sponsor in the Assembly.

"As a strong proponent of Universal Single Payer health care, I am
thrilled to hear that this new coalition, Single Payer New York, is
forming. The timing is ideal, as I believe many New Yorkers and
Americans now understand that we are paying more for health care than
other countries, but with worse outcomes overall. It is time to turn
that public understanding and frustration into political action. My
congratulations and thanks for taking on this critical task.," said
Barbara Lifton, Assemblymember, 125th District

"Health care is not just another issue for me, it's a value. I
believe it is everyone's right to accessible, affordable, quality
health care. In 2006, 2.8 million people in New York State, including
500,000 children, went without health insurance. We can do better, and
we must do better. The United States Congress must pass H.R. 676. H.R. 676
would provide quality health insurance coverage for everyone for just
about everything, restore our right to choose health care providers,
cut red tape, save billions and end outside interference in personal
medical decisions. As Assistant Speaker of the Assembly, a co-sponsor
of a resolution urging Congress to pass H.R. 676,
and a co-sponsor of Assembly legislation to create a single payer
system in our state, I know how a single payer system could help all
New Yorkers. I join with my friends in labor, the New York State Nurses
Association, women's organizations, and the entire coalition known as
Single Payer New York in calling for a health care system that puts
patients ahead of profits," said Assemblymember Rhoda S. Jacobs, 42nd Assembly District.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) added, "With 2.5 million
uninsured New Yorkers, we need to address this inequity as soon as
possible. While we are waiting for leadership in Washington, it is
important that we develop the grass roots support necessary to keep the
issue of health care in the forefront. I applaud the efforts of Single
Payer New York in championing the health care reform we need here in
New York and across the country."

Physicians for a National Health Program is a single issue organization advocating a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program. PNHP has more than 21,000 members and chapters across the United States.