With the novel coronavirus rapidly spreading throughout New York, Governor Cuomo should move quickly to expand our public healthcare system.
It will take significant resources to get this done, but Cuomo shouldn’t wait for Washington to act.
Instead, he should immediately require the wealthiest New Yorkers to do more to help fund and sustain the public healthcare system we need.
Our state has more billionaires than anywhere else on the planet.
Even with the extreme volatility in the stock market, New York’s billionaires and the super-rich are doing fine. Many are hiding out in the Hamptons or in their second, third, or fourth homes.
They can and should quickly help fund the increased healthcare surge capacity we need, so that New Yorkers living with coronavirus (COVID-19) can be treated and lives can be saved.
Now is not the time to shrink healthcare programs and services, but to make them stronger and more powerful so they can protect more New Yorkers.
In this moment, we need the most robust state healthcare programs possible, especially services for New Yorkers living with pre-existing medical conditions and disabilities who are at high risk of illness and even death from coronavirus.
Make no mistake: budget cuts to healthcare won’t reduce the spread of coronavirus or lessen its impact. In fact, as we have seen in Washington state, cuts that force more people into nursing homes will worsen the impact.
Thankfully, there’s no need to carry out the destructive health care cuts Cuomo first proposed in January, before the scope and danger of coronavirus became clear.
Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers have a robust menu of policy options for raising revenue from the super-rich, including a billionaire wealth tax, an increased income tax on ultra-millionaires, a tax on vacant luxury apartments, and a sales tax on Wall Street securities trades.
Here is what raising revenue from the wealthiest New Yorkers can help fund in this time of crisis:
- A stronger and more effective stable healthcare system, including personal services for people with complex medical conditions and compromised immune systems, and consumer-directed personal assistance that protect high-risk populations by minimizing their contact with others. Funding these services will keep seniors and the disabled out of nursing homes and hospitals and in the community with trusted individuals, saving lives.
- More housing and supportive services for New Yorkers who are homeless or who have unstable housing. In a time of epidemic, we need to ensure all of us have access to a system of care that can diagnose and treat illnesses, including coronavirus
- More funding for our local public schools, colleges and universities, which will need to spend money on basic public health measures, equip young people with the truth about science and the epidemic, and continue to provide nutritional and health services to hundreds of thousands of low-income students.
- An emergency expansion of paid sick leave, elimination of co-pays for tests and treatments, and rapid-response public health efforts by cities and counties across our state, including hiring and training new healthcare and public health workers, and expanding programs that help friends and families aid those who need help in the community.
Across the state, there are teams of experts working around the clock to protect the public health, marshalling resources from federal, state and local governments to coordinate New York’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
At a time when frontline healthcare workers will make the difference between life and death for thousands of New Yorkers, everyone in our state surely wants them to have what they need to save lives.
In this all-hands-on-deck moment, the wealthiest New Yorkers should be required to step up and do more to fund the most robust public health response to the coronavirus and its aftermath.
Even before the rise of coronavirus the need for investments in public health, these revenue-raising policies were backed by the vast majority of New Yorkers: nine out of ten voters said they’d back the billionaire wealth tax, the ultra-millionaires income tax and the pied-á-terre tax in a poll released by Hart Research in February.
If anything, raising more resources from the wealthy to fight the coronavirus and protect all New Yorkers would be even more popular today.
It doesn’t take courage to move forward with popular policies that will benefit and protect all of us — it takes political will.
Cuomo and our state’s leaders must invest in our collective health and well-being – especially given the state of emergency we’re all living in right now.
Bryan O’Malley is the Executive Director of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State. Michael Kink is the Executive Director of the Strong Economy For All Coalition.