April 03, 2007

BALCONY Universal Health Care Forum set for Albany May 10th

Source:  BALCONY: Business and Labor Coalition of New York

ALBANY, NY -- BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York,, announced today that it is hosting a Universal Health Care Forum in Albany on May 10, 2007 at the Empire State Plaza.

Citing the New York State Budget agreement between Governor Eliot Spitzer and the New York State Assembly and Senate for a major expansion of the Child Health Program, BALCONY believes the time is ripe to have New York develop a plan for Universal Health Care which could provide coverage for the remaining 2.4 million uninsured New Yorkers.

"We are concerned that the cost for workers' health care coverage is a significant problem for small businesses, one that often saps their competitiveness," stated BALCONY Co-Chairman Bruce Ventimiglia, Chairman of Saratoga Capital Management, LLC "By gathering together advocates from other states and critically examining the details of rival proposals, BALCONY hopes to inspire New York State legislators to take action before our health care system becomes too moribund to fix."

"The goal of obtaining universal health care insurance for all New York's residents impacts all of the participants in our health care system, doctors, patients, insurers, providers and taxpayers. The agreement by Governor Spitzer and the legislature to expand New York's Child Health Plus program increasing eligibility to 400% of poverty, insuring 400,000 children is a step in the right direction. We need to build on that momentum to develop a plan that can foster not only healthy citizens but also a healthy New York economy," stated Dr. James Melius, BALCONY Executive Board Member and administrator of the New York State Laborers Employers Cooperation Education Trust - LECET.

Key issues to be discussed at the BALCONY Universal Health Care Forum include:

  • Life-Threatening Challenges of the 2.4 million New York Uninsured
  • Impact of Skyrocketing Health Insurance Costs on Small and Medium Size Business
  • Union and Management Desire to Provide Affordable Healthcare to Employees
  • Health Care Plans and Proposals across the Nation

Healthcare professionals from several states, as well as a cross section of experts from New York, will speak on how other states have approached this national problem. Some states like Massachusetts and Vermont are implementing plans aimed at achieving universal health care, while others like Illinois and Pennsylvania have passed laws to cover all their states' children. A third group of states, like New Mexico and Rhode Island, have created public/private partnerships.

Major public policy organizations have already committed to participate in the BALCONY Universal Health Care Forum, including the Heinz Family Philanthropies, the American Cancer Society, the Fiscal Policy Institute, Citizens Action New York and the Hunger Action Network of New York. Key stakeholders and professionals are already slated to speak at the Forum, while more, including legislators, have been invited to attend.

After expanding the Child Health Plus to 400% of the federal poverty level or $82,600 for a family of 4, the challenge facing New York State is to offer a plan for coverage for the 2.4 million uninsured New Yorkers. As a result, the financial burden of providing health care to the uninsured falls on the State of New York, the federal government, health care providers, and, most critically, on the uninsured themselves. The large number of uninsured persists despite consistent poll numbers that suggest that two-thirds of American voters support a federal guarantee of universal healthcare for all citizens. According to Ventimiglia, "shifting health care costs makes small business planning impossible. We need to inject more certainty into the process."

"Only when all these plans are arrayed side by side can any intelligent judgment be made about which parts work for New Yorkers, and which parts do not," stated BALCONY Co-Chairman Alan Lubin, executive vice president of NYSUT. "This is a silent crisis, but a crisis nonetheless. We need decisive action, soon. Rarely do healthcare providers and insurance providers, union members and state administrators, gather together to discuss common thoughts and dreams. The BALCONY Universal Health Care Forum is one such place. BALCONY hopes to inspire organizations in other states to take similar actions."

BALCONY,, represents more than 500 New York businesses, labor unions, and trade associations. BALCONY seeks common ground in the public policy debate in New York to spur economic development through the adoption of business/ union friendly, socially responsible common sense laws that maintain and improve the quality of life for working New Yorkers.

For details on the BALCONY Universal Health Care Forum agenda, contact BALCONY Coordinator Lou Gordon at (212) 219-7777 or Eleni Delimpaltadaki, conference coordinator, at (212) 219-7777.