Can New York State Afford Healthcare for All?

‘The belief that universal, public funded health insurance necessarily requires huge tax increases is not confirmed.’

A Commentary by Rick Clements, an outreach volunteer, based in the Buffalo/Western New York area, for the Campaign for New York Health

Posted November 5th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

(A Brief Foreword from Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper – I found out about Capaign for New York Health when I met members of the group at an information booth they set up at the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts in Buffalo, New York this past August.

I reached out to them at the time with an invitation post commentary on Niagara At Large, which has a readership in the Buffalo area.

With what many U.S. commentators are calling one of the most important elections in the country’s history coming up this Tuesday, November 6th, and with the need for a health care system that is fair and affordable polling as a priority issue for many Americans, I decided to put one of the group’s commentaries on now.

Here it is, and here is hoping that Tuesday’s election ushers in a new, more positive dawn for our American neighbours, when it comes to health care and a host of other issues.)

There is nearly universal agreement that we all should be able to get necessary medical treatment when needed.  Most even believe that healthcare shouldn’t be a privilege just for those who can afford it. 

For healthcare, Americans pay about double per capita what other countries pay, while our results still fall short, leaving millions unprotected and in jeopardy of bankruptcy due to medical costs. There is clearly a need for improvement.   

Many of us are unaware that there is a bill, the NY Health Act, progressing through the state legislature proposing comprehensive coverage for all residents without deductibles, co-pays or benefit limits.  It has easily passed the Assembly three times, but stalled awaiting debate in the Senate.  So what’s the argument for and against it?

With our cultural belief in self-reliance and free choice, many object to public-funded healthcare as ‘socialist’ believing that only vigorous competition in a free market controls costs, expands access and maintains quality of care. The most frequent objection, however, is the belief that public funding of health insurance would be an intolerable budget buster. Is this true?   

For over 50 years, Canadians have had universal, publicly-funded coverage without deductibles, networks, or co-pays.  So just how do our taxes compare?  Here is a personal example. 

Four years ago, I retired and live with my wife in Amherst.  We have Medicare A, B, D, and a Medicare supplement.  My brother, Ted, also a retired senior, lives with his wife near Toronto. We’re both comfortable middle class couples with similar pension and investment incomes.

During a recent conversation, I mentioned I’d finally compiled our 1099’s, receipts, and documents so our CPA could sort, interpret and prepare our tax return. Ted told me he’d just completed their tax return himself and submitted it electronically in about two hours the previous evening. While on the subject I asked “what’s your effective overall tax rate?” He calculated their total income and total taxes (federal and provincial) and told me “8.27%”.  This was shocking!

I’d fully expected their tax rate would be more than ours, but for the past three years our rate ranged from 17.1% to 18.2%. We’re actually paying DOUBLE the tax rate my brother pays, just across Lake Ontario!  How could this be possible?   

Ted and Valerie also had no other healthcare expenses (except dental) and as seniors are even fully covered for prescription drugs.  Joan and I, here in New York spent $7,483.95 out of pocket for premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and drugs – and we’re on Medicare! 

Furthermore, I already knew our property taxes were double what Ted pays and that difference is largely due to the 85% of Erie County property tax that funds Medicaid.  An equivalent to Medicaid doesn’t even exist in Canada since everyone is already covered.   

In fairness, this compares two similar middle class couples.  Canada’s taxes are significantly more progressive, so higher income Ontario taxpayers might well be more heavily taxed, but they obviously wouldn’t suffer financially.  Clearly, though, the belief that universal, public funded health insurance necessarily requires huge tax increases is not confirmed.    

So what’s the bottom line?  While it may not be the perfect solution, we deserve giving the NY Health Act serious consideration and debate in the Senate.  NY Health Act details are at where you can see what it would mean to you.         

The Campaign for New York Health is a coalition of organizations and individuals representing millions of New Yorkers committed to guaranteeing healthcare for the residents of our state. Our goal is to win improved Medicare for All in New York State.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made history by expanding health insurance to thousands of New Yorkers for the first time. However, it left insurance companies in charge of our healthcare system. Also, even with the ACA, over 1,000,000 New York residents are still uninsured.

With the federal government again doing healthcare reform, moving more responsibility for healthcare to the states, it’s imperative that New York establish a better, truly universal system, which finally gets costs under control. Our state can set the standard for the country by implementing a just and equitable healthcare system — New York Health! 

For more information on the Campaign for New York Health, and its efforts for affordable health care for all, click on – .

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


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