Opinion: Lawmakers must prioritize New York’s health

Jameel Morrison
Rev. Paul J. Thomas, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Buffalo.

Opinion: Lawmakers must prioritize New York’s health

Proposed legislation would raise healthcare costs amidst inflation
June 2, 2022

As New Yorkers continue to recover from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, it’s critical that our lawmakers prioritize improving the lives of those constituents above all else. Regrettably, during the last year, policymakers made several decisions that put special interests ahead of hardworking people, including more than a billion taxpayer dollars spent on a football stadium. Now, Albany needs to focus on improving the lives of everyday New Yorkers. The first step in making things better is to stop making them worse.

One way to start: New York lawmakers must vote down S.7909, a bill sponsored by state Sen. James Skoufis and backed by big drug companies, that would raise health care costs for New York families, small businesses, and unions. If it becomes law, it would mean millions of dollars in higher out-of-pocket medication copays, and higher premiums for New Yorkers. 

This comes as inflation is driving up costs on just about everything. If passed, S.7909 would only exacerbate this problem by raising health care costs for New Yorkers by a staggering $524 million in the first year alone. Now more than ever, it is unacceptable and irresponsible to force additional prescription drugs costs on patients who can’t afford them.

As if that wasn’t bad enough already, S.7909 would also make it harder for employers and unions to provide high-quality, low-cost health care coverage to workers. This bill would also force small businesses – many of which are already struggling to stay afloat in this tough economic environment – to pay more to offer competitive benefits. And when businesses need to choose between paying wages or higher health care costs, New York workers will pay the price.

Vulnerable patients will be at risk of losing the high quality of care they depend on to treat chronic conditions and debilitating diseases such as cancer. That’s because S.7909 also reduces safety standards for specialty drugs used to treat patients with conditions like cancer.

So who’s the big winner from S.7909? Big drug companies, who will continue driving up prescription drug prices on New Yorkers to increase their already record-breaking profits. S.7909 will do nothing to stop that, while increasing drug costs for New Yorkers who are demanding relief.

It’s time New York lawmakers drop the political theater and get to work. After an unthinkable two years, it’s New York families who deserve a break – not big drug companies. Reject S.7909.

Paul J. Thomas
Rev. Paul J. Thomas is the pastor of Bethel AME Church in Buffalo.