Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Neponsit, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Rockaway Park, Roxbury, South Ozone Park, West Hamilton Beach, Woodhaven
Our Healthcare Plan
Make New York
First of all, we are living through a COVID-19 pandemic. The engines that move our country and communities have been paused or stopped as we contain the spread of this virus and begin the inoculation of our people. That simply, is our first priority. The health of our district is dependent on many things: Our living conditions, health education, access to healthcare and social engagement. How we ensure the health of our district is dependent on how we manage the full circle of our governance infrastructure.
We have a history of getting in our own way
One of my favorite Beatles songs is “The Long and Winding Road”. It is the best way to describe the history of healthcare in the United States. During colonial times, healthcare was limited mostly women providing care particularly during childbirth.
The first medical society was formed in Boston in 1735. The first American degree in medicine was awarded in New York in 1770. In the mid 1800’s during the Civil War, more soldiers died from disease than from fighting in the Civil War. Chicken Pox, Diarrhea, dysentery, Measles, mumps, typhoid fever and whooping cough ravaged the country.
During this time, medical care and techniques improved and became more organized. By the end of the century, nearly half the physicians in the country joined the American Medical Association (AMA) and we began to see the development of organized group healthcare services.
“No country could be strong whose people were sick and poor.” Theodore Roosevelt.
At the turn of the century, the Industrial Revolution brought about organized unions and organized healthcare. Prior to the 1900’s most healthcare was pay-per-service which endangered families from the costs to the loss of work. As unions grew stronger, due to the dangers of illness and injury from the heavy machines union workers labored on, many companies had to commit to sickness protection, the precursor to healthcare benefits. We have our unions to thank for making healthcare benefits a staple of American life.
It is at this time we faltered. While Theodore Roosevelt supported health insurance, successive leaders failed to bring qualified healthcare to the American public. The AALL bill of 1915 was proposed by the American Association of Labor Legislation (AALL) to offer coverage to workers that earned less than $1200 a year, including dependents. doctors, nurses, and hospitals were included, as well as sick pay, maternity benefits, and a death benefit of fifty dollars to pay for funeral expenses. The costs would be shared between the workers, employers, and the state.
Unfortunately, doctors, business, insurance and even unions worried more about losing power and profit resulting in the death of public healthcare for all Americans. Another key component of stifling the bill was the proposed death benefit of fifty dollars to pay for funeral expenses. The private insurance industry made plenty of pocket money in policies sold to the public. A national health plan would have hampered the industry that literally collected nickels and dimes from the working class.
Hospital Stays and Popcorn in Theaters:
After World War I, hospitals and doctors began charging more that the common American could afford. Much like the price gouging at movie theaters such as popcorn. Today, the only thing worse than the extra fee cable companies charge is your hospital bill which can literally charge you for the air you breathe.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield was born in 1923. Baylor Hospitals in Dallas created a pre-paid monthly fee healthcare program for teachers that expanded to schools across the nation creating the first modern nationwide health program followed by many others since then.
The Great Depression of the 30’s and World War II in the 40’s did much to shape the healthcare benefits we employ today. We jump from Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He introduced a healthcare insurance bill that included “old age” benefits. This was fought against vehemently by the American Medical Association and Roosevelt had to let it go replacing it with the Social Security Act of 1935:
The Social Security Act (Act of August 14, 1935) [H. R. 7260]
An act to provide for the general welfare by establishing a system of Federal old-age benefits, and by enabling the several States to make more adequate provision for aged persons, blind persons, dependent and crippled children, maternal and child welfare, public health, and the administration of their unemployment compensation laws; to establish a Social Security Board; to raise revenue; and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
Full Archived Historical Document at: Ruben shares - Social Security Act of 1935
In order to fight runaway inflation during the war, the legislature passed the Stabilization Act of 1942 limiting wage increases prohibiting businesses from offering higher salaries. Unable to offer higher pay, in order to recruit new employees, businesses began offering employer-sponsored health insurance. This ushered in health insurance as we know it today.
Around the same time, Henry Kaiser, an industrialist, contracted with Dr. Sidney Garfield to provide pre-paid healthcare that eventually became the Kaiser Permanente Health Plan which evolved into the present-day managed care systems or HMOs and PPOs we know today.
A payroll tax to fund universal health care was introduced in 1943 in the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill. As you can expect, the bill was stillborn. In 1945, Harry Truman introduced the first health plan that included all Americans. Again, the American Medical Association opposed the plan and new attacks against this idea were launched like “socialist”, “Red Scare'', and “the Moscow party line” With the Korean War on the horizon, a national healthcare plan would have to wait.
We continued to make significant medical advances such as the Polio vaccine, but we also saw the price of hospital care double.
Over one hundred years after it’s inception, the American Medical Association continued to quash health care growth and expansion. John F. Kennedy introduced a healthcare plan for senior citizens opposed by the American Medical Association claiming “socialized medicine”. However, in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Act of 1965 laying the groundwork for what would become Medicare and Medicaid.
It is in this era I was born. Eventually my mom and brother and I would live on welfare and medicaid and struggle to make ends meet. But we found ways to thrive. I was able to graduate high school, then earn my degree, start a business, contribute to my community and run for city council.
In the 80’, 90’s and early 2000’s we saw the introduction of COBRA allowing former employees to continue enrollment in their former employer’s group health plan by paying the full premium.
In 1960, the government tracked National Health Expenditures (NHE) as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At the start of the decade, NHE accounted for 5 percent of GDP. By 1970, it was 6.9%. By 1980, it was 8.9%. The 90’s saw 12.1%. And by 2000, it accounted for 13.3% of the GDP.
We’ve seen expanded Medicaid assistance for uninsured children and Medicare part D. For the most part, healthcare as an issue took a backseat to increased threats worldwide of terrorism and two Iraq wars.
Affordable Healthcare and the $750 Pill
Today we have the Affordable Care Act. Attacked as a “socialist” plan, congress has voted over 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Most important is the pre-existing condition clause effectively ending the practice of denying individuals coverage with pre-existing conditions such as AIDS, asthma, heart attacks and strokes. Previously, Blue Cross/Blue Shield charged the same regardless of age, sex or pre-existing condition.
As coverage became more of a profit based system, prices began to go up and people with pre-existing conditions started to be declined coverage. This is the most significant expansion of healthcare coverage since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid when I was born.
Before the Affordable Care Act, one out of seven people were denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions up to and including pregnancy.
What a shame that phrases like “Too big to fail” and “Big Pharma” have entered our vernacular. But the fact is pharmaceuticals are severely over-priced to near criminal levels. We all remember “Pharma bro” Martin Shkreli raising the price of the life-saving drug Daraprim by 5,000% from $13.50 per pill to $750.00 per pill! He is serving a 7-year prison sentence for an unrelated crime.
But guess what? The price is still $750.00 per pill.
Today we have a world-wide epidemic in COVID-19. We now have multiple vaccine options to employ to vaccinate our district
My Healthcare Solution
Make New York Safe
MY TOTAL HEALTHCARE PLAN
First things first. District 32 has been one of the hardest hit districts in New York. We’ve been highlighted as a yellow zone and now Richmond Hill has the distinction of the Highest rate of COVID-19 cases in New York. So hot spot areas such as ours as well as essential workers and the elderly need to be targeted for vaccinations.
Healthcare is healthy living, education, cleanliness. We need to keep educated on the health both physical and mental of each other as well as practice simple things like washing our hands more. That’s the practical side of things. But what do we need to do for the future?
Food pantries. Food pantries have been a critical part of keeping us going during this crisis. I would like to see this continued and codified in locations of critical need.
I would like to have more mobile units available to reach at need communities particularly at our NYCHA housing.
More than ever, we need health programs to keep us active and healthy for children, adults and seniors alike. I would like to create multi-generational online exercise programs through the Mayor’s office of Media and Communications similar to We Speak NYC, a series produced by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to help English language learners improve their language skills while learning about City services and their rights.
Health of the person, health of the community.
While individual health both mental and physical is important, the same can be said for the health of a community. While we appear to have a shortage of space, we have, in fact, a large cache of spaces available to us.
Districts 32 harbors more catering halls than most anyplace else in Queens. I would engage these catering halls to sponsor open days when they have no business, for community use and events. I believe this good will can foster increased revenue for our catering halls that support their community.
Resorts World Casino, our churches, our schools, our libraries, NYCHA, Parks and Recreation all have underutilized spaces that I would like to engage in lending access to youth groups, health fairs and other community based activities. You see, a city council member is tasked not just with the passing of legislation but engaging the district in unifying ways for the health of the community.
Cooling centers and heating centers. I want to ensure that these essential services are provided particularly in places that have been non-compliant like some NYCHA spaces.
We need free high speed broadband available in all of NYC. Of utmost importance is having free broadband available at NYCHA locations where students and seniors need them most.
The ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act is 30 years old and we’re still not compliant? Trains, schools, uncounted buildings are still not ADA compliant. I know many places like the Long Island Railroad were given 20 years to comply. 30 years later and we’re still not there.
Out of 124 the LIRR has, only 20 were fully accessible. The New York City Transit has 248 stations with 67 that were accessible with an additional 33 scheduled for completion by 2020.
Our entire fleet of busses on the other hand, are lift-equipped, has kneeling features, wheelchair securement devices, public address systems, and seating spaces reserved for persons with disabilities. This is where health, housing and transportation collide.
This will be my focus under my transportation platform.