New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Tuesday issued a bold guarantee of affordable health care for every resident, thrusting the nation’s largest city to the forefront of debates over universal health coverage and immigrant rights.
The promise is aimed at 600,000 New Yorkers who lack insurance because they can’t afford it, believe they don’t need it, or can’t get it because they are in the country illegally.
The announcement makes New York the second U.S. city to attempt to provide health care to everyone living there, coming about a dozen years after San Francisco pioneered the idea with a more limited promise. And as the Trump administration erodes the Affordable Care Act, the mayor’s promise is the most ambitious of a spate of Democratic efforts to protect and expand the law’s insurance gains and consumer protections at the local and state level.
De Blasio’s $100 million commitment was laden with political significance: He delivered it hours before a prime-time speech by President Trump, who was expected to defend his assertion that the country faces a crisis of illegal immigration.
“I refuse the notion that these folks don’t deserve health care,” the mayor said of undocumented immigrants. “It is not only the morally right choice, but it will save taxpayers in the end.”
The initiative also coincides with the start of the 2020 presidential election cycle as calls for universal coverage — often called Medicare-for-all — are emerging as a rallying cry among potential Democratic aspirants.
New York’s plan is likely to become a marker as the long-standing debate over how large a role the government should play in health care continues to evolve — with progressives now framing it as a human right. In his remarks, de Blasio was clear where he stands. “From this moment on in New York City, everyone is guaranteed the right to health care. Everyone.”
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