Watch: Video Starring NY Lawmakers Lampoons Absurdity of For-Profit Healthcare

Imagine that your home was on fire but firefighters refused to extinguish the blaze because you didn’t have the right insurance, or your premiums weren’t paid in full, or you didn’t jump through the myriad requisite flaming hoops to qualify for relief. 

That’s the premise of a video published Wednesday promoting the New York Health Act, a bill that, if passed, would provide single-payer, universal health coverage for all Empire State residents and workers. 

The video, which stars faux-firefighters Jabari Brisport and Zohran Kwame Mamdani—two Democratic New York state lawmakers who back the bill—is meant to draw attention to what single-payer supporters say is the absurdity of the United States being the only nation in the developed world without universal healthcare. 

Backers of the bill argue that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic underscores the necessity of immediately passing universal healthcare legislation, with single-payer advocates noting that 300,000 New Yorkers lost their health coverage during the proverbial inferno of the Covid-19 crisis. 

Proponents say the state bill would fix that. According to the Campaign for New York Health:

The campaign notes that “every day, as many as three New Yorkers die needlessly due to lack of health coverage. It’s so common that it no longer makes the headlines. In the last 10 years, an estimated 20,000 New Yorkers died unnecessarily due to lack of health insurance. Over one million New Yorkers lack health insurance, and millions more have plans that would bankrupt them when faced with a medical emergency.”

“The U.S. nationally spends more than $3 trillion on healthcare every year, our healthcare outcomes are far behind other high-income countries in nearly every category,” the campaign says. “For example, maternal mortality is actually increasing in the U.S. despite every other comparable country making significant gains in reducing deaths related to pregnancy.”

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“Financial barriers and lack of access to care are significant drivers in these shameful health outcomes,” it adds. “Inequality is rapidly increasing, and your zip code can actually determine your life expectancy. The richest 1% of American men lives 15 years longer than the poorest 1%; 10 years longer for women. The current system is designed to make profits—which it does very well—not provide healthcare.”

Countering the “but how will you pay for it” canard, the campaign notes that “there is so much waste, fraud, and profiteering in the current system, that moving to a universal, single-payer model actually costs less than the status quo for both the state and 90% of individuals.”

“The bottom line is that not only is it a moral imperative to guarantee everyone access to care as a right and public good, it is fiscally conservative,” the campaign concludes. “We simply cannot afford not to have a single-payer system.”

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Single-payer healthcare is closer than ever to reality for New Yorkers. For the first time, a majority in both houses of the state Legislature have co-sponsored the New York Health Act. The bill came close to passage in 2019 and 2020, and now that Democrats enjoy veto-proof supermajorities in both the Assembly and Senate for the first time in the state’s history, supporters of the measure say they are on the verge of victory.

“We’re certainly going to work to move it this year,” state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat who is the lead co-sponsor of the bill, told Gothamist. “It’s not going to pass tomorrow, I’d say—we still gotta deal with this knucklehead.”

That “knucklehead” is embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is embroiled in a scandal involving sexual misconduct allegations.

And while Democrats technically have the numbers to override any potential veto by Cuomo, not all Democratic lawmakers—especially in more moderate Senate districts—can be considered automatic supporters of progressive agenda items like single-payer healthcare. 

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