Healthcare Workers, Unions & Legislators Rally in Syracuse for the New York Health Act

Syracuse, NY – A crowd of fifty including members of 1199 SEIU, medical students, and patients rallied in support of the New York Health Act in Syracuse in front of the State Office Building in Syracuse. The New York Health Act has majority support in both chambers of the legislature. Activists across the state are hosting local rallies to urge Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousin and Assembly Speaker Carl Heatsie to bring the Health Act to a vote this year.

Based on conservative estimates on the economics of the NY Health act from the RAND Corporation, NY State will see $11 billion in annual savings compared to the current for-profit system.

By establishing a universal healthcare system, the New York Health Act will address the structural roots of healthcare inequity by makes healthcare a right guaranteed for every New Yorkers regardless of age, wealth, place of employment, or immigration status.

Participants included the following individuals who made statements in support of the Rally in Syracuse for the New York Health Act:

Marianna Pernia, MD: “The statistics tell a sobering truth – that 40% of covid deaths could have been prevented if only we had had a universal publicly funded health system for everyone. And we know that pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color, which highlights the disproportionate lack of access to resources and healthcare that we must correct.  We have an urgent need in NY State to fund comprehensive universal healthcare for everyone in the state regardless of age, race, wealth, or immigration status.”

Star Lewis, Certified Nursing Assistant, Member Political Organizer 1199SEIU: “We’ve seen what it’s like to have free healthcare for the COVID-19 vaccine. None of us was asked to pay for this life saving vaccine. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that when we need healthcare services, we are covered for everything we need? With the New York Health Act we won’t need to worry about going into crippling medical debt or being denied coverage for medical attention.”

Rev. Eric Jackson, Plymouth Congregational Church: “As we start to turn the corner on the worst health crisis we’ve seen in the last one hundred years…we need to commit to taking care of one another. The time is now for our elected leaders to pass universal, single-payer healthcare.”

Rev. Bernard Alex, Victory Temple Fellowship Church: “We saw during the pandemic that black and brown communities suffered a disproportionate number of people dying. And our people were suffering before. It makes no sense that in the richest country in the world, we do not have guaranteed healthcare. We need our elected leaders to make universal healthcare a reality now.”

Elana Sitnik, President, Students for a National Health Program SUNY Upstate: “I first became interested in universal single-payer healthcare while working as a registrar in a large urban emergency department and I saw a patient being rolled off the ambulance screaming that they could not pay and to please let them go. I entered the medical field to take care of people. That’s why we are working so hard to become good doctors. We don’t want insurance companies between us and our patients. The time to pass the New York Health Act is now!”

Michael Greene, Syracuse Common Councilor at-Large, Finance Chair: “We have hundreds of employees and we are spending tens of millions of dollars to provide health insurance. If we were not spending that money to buy private insurance and healthcare was provided by New York State, we could invest in transportation, we could improve housing, we could improve the Citizen Review Board, all these things. When you look at the racial inequity in Syracuse, our healthcare system is broken and exacerbates the inequities. Medical debt impacts black and brown communities disproportionately. The time to pass the New York Health Act is now!”

Elaine Denton, Manlius Town Board: “In the town of Manlius, health care costs have nearly doubled in the last ten years from 1.2 million to 2.2 million dollars. Now imagine the savings when we pass the NY health act – savings we can return to you by reducing taxes, and funding services for our communities. The Town of Manlius could save approximately 1.8 million dollars every year. Onondaga county could save over 150 million dollars.”

Ursula Rozum, Co-Director Campaign for New York Health: “We have a historic opportunity in New York to respond to the pain and trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic by passing the New YorK Health Act to make healthcare a guaranteed right for everybody in our state, so that everyone has the peace of mind that they are covered, no matter our age, place of employment or immigration status. The New York Health Act has majority support in the state Assembly and the State Senate. It’s time for Majority Leader Stewart Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie to bring the Health Act to a vote!”

Credit: Ray Trudell pictures