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Supporters of universal health care make their case in statewide Legislative hearings

Michelle Faust / WXXI News
Barbara Dyskant testified Monday at a hearing in support of universal health care in New York State.


Barbara Dyskant joined 30 others who signed up to testify at a hearing in Rochester organized by Richard Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health Committee.

The Assembly Member will use testimony from 6 hearings across the state to persuade his colleagues to support the New York Health Act, which would create universal health care all New York residents.

Dyskant says the high deductible on her insurance nearly caused her to delay the blood test that revealed her daughter's leukemia.

“I didn't think there was anything wrong with her and I still don't know what told me to go ahead and do it.”

Dyskant blames the current health care system for forcing too many Americans into make difficult decisions about how to spend their out-of-pocket health care dollars. The concerned mother worries other families with tighter budgets may have made a fatal choice by postponing a simple blood test.

“They told me she would have gotten so sick she wouldn't have been able to get out of bed. And at that point we would have brought her in and at that point it might have been too late,” said Dyskant.

According to Richard Gottfried, the health care system is better since the adoption of the Affordable Care Act, but it's still fatally flawed.

“…and so we continue to see rising premiums, deductibles that are out of sight, co-payments, narrow, restricted provider networks.”

Gottfried puts the blame square on the shoulders of insurance companies, who he'd like to see out of the state’s health care process.

“Not so fast!” warn opponents to universal health care.

While Gottfried blames much of the bloated costs in the system on insurance overhead, Michael King, Principal at Century Benefits Group, argues the real costs are in the number of claims.

Opponents say when everyone has easy access to health care, more people will use it. America’s increasing life expectancy will result in more demand on health care says King.

“People want all the new technologies to keep them living longer. That does cost money.”

The New York Health Act would pay for itself through a mix of federal dollars that currently fund programs like Medicaid and Medicare and a tax based on income.

King doubts the system would go far enough to cover the costs, and says the state government isn’t equipped to take on the role as New York's only insurer.

“Large government organizations are not efficient enough to handle a task of this size, especially in New York State,” said King.

Other opponents are concerned a larger system will create more potential fraud.

Still, the majority of the testimony at the hearing centered on a desire to build a more equitable system that doesn’t force consumers to juggle the concerns of cost and health.

Barbara Dyskant daughter’s leukemia is in remission, but continues to press for universal health care in New York State. She wants the reassurance that her daughter will have health coverage if her cancer returns, but Dyskant also worries for others in her same situation.

“I don’t want them to have it any worse than her. I don’t want people whose husbands’ don’t have jobs to have any less right to health than my girl,” said Dyskant.

Michelle Faust, MA, is a reporter/ producer whose work focuses strongly on issues related to health and health policy. She joined the WXXI newsroom in February 2014, and in short time became the lead producer on the Understanding the Affordable Care Act series. Michelle is a reporter with the health collaborative Side Effects and regularly contributes to The Innovation Trail. Working across media, she also produces packages for WXXI-TV’s weekly news magazine Need to Know.
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