Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege

“Is it really worth the $150?” said Paige Emerson, a Syracuse University freshman and friend of mine, looking tired and desperate. My heart sank. She debated whether or not to go to the emergency room. This is the second time in the past year they’ve avoided the high cost of seeking help, and it’s not the only one – 51% of US adults say they sought medical help in the past year because of costs have delayed or waived supply.

Additionally, nearly half of insured adults in the United States have trouble paying for health care out-of-pocket, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And around 12% say medical bills have a major impact on their family. It is clear that health care has become a privilege for those who can afford it. Otherwise it’s a burden.

The New York Health Act, a bill currently in the New York State Legislature’s committee, is critical to people across the state, especially people like Emerson. This law would establish a program that would guarantee income-based health care with no co-payments for all residents. In addition to creating a single payer health care system, it would establish the New York Health Trust Fund, which would be used solely to fund the New York Health Program.

Alongside bills such as Coverage 4 All and End Medical Debt, this law would give patients greater financial access to health care, regardless of labor and citizenship status. The need to pass this law is becoming more urgent as drug prices soar, companies go bust and healthcare becomes less affordable.



Emerson said they have struggled with the healthcare system their entire lives because of finances and access.

“My meds a month without insurance are already over $1,000,” Emerson said.

With their insurance, they end up paying about $100 a month for medication and the occasional other healthcare expense. That doesn’t even include the cost of going to the ER if she can walk. Not if she has to.

Emerson has conditions that require her to take five different medications. Drugs could make the difference between life and death. Not only does she have chronic migraines (which require her to take two other medications), but she’s also in the process of being diagnosed with a heart condition. This requires frequent doctor visits and referrals to specialists, all of which come with a price tag.

Emerson would benefit greatly from passage of the New York Health Act, alongside many New York residents and workers. It would mitigate stressful financial decisions away from important health decisions. This bill, along with other accompanying bills, is an important step toward achieving justice for New Yorkers, particularly communities of color who have long been underserved, by establishing a universal health care system in the state.

Ultimately, the establishment of single-payer healthcare systems is not only of great benefit to residents and employees, but also to public finances in the long term. That’s why the New York Public Interest Research Group is pushing for the passage of this law, because we understand that every New Yorker deserves access to affordable health care.

With students leading the fight to ensure this law passes, NYPIRG hosted an event with SU’s Rebecca Lee Pre-Health Society and Honors Pre-Heath called “What the Health!” on Wednesday. They discussed healthcare systems in the US and explained the New York Health Act and its accompanying legislation. NYPIRG also requested that these bills be passed on to officers.

Emerson said she felt lucky. They are well insured and can cover external costs with the help of their families. But she fears what could happen in the future if that security doesn’t exist or an unknown emergency occurs. She could lose her vital access. Nobody should have to live in fear of it. Health care is a human right and our state policies must reflect this.

Evelina Torres, born in 2025

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