Common healthcare advocates picketing on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. Photograph courtesy of Marketing campaign for New York Well being © 2020
On Tuesday, dozens of protesters picketed on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s “CEOs Communicate” occasion to protest the Partnership’s efforts to kill the New York Well being Act, a plan to create a common healthcare system in New York State. The Buffalo Niagara Partnership (BNP) is a company lobbying group backed by main Buffalo companies and public establishments, together with public hospitals like Erie County Medical Middle and Roswell Park Most cancers Institute.
Organizations that took half within the picket included the Marketing campaign for New York Well being, New York State Nurses Affiliation, Physicians for a Nationwide Healthcare Program NY, Citizen Motion NY, Metro Justice, WNY Healthcare for All, and Poor Folks’s Marketing campaign WNY.
The New York Well being Act would lengthen complete medical care to all New Yorkers no matter employment or immigration standing. A 2018 analysis by the conservative RAND Company predicted its enactment would lead to $80 billion in well being care financial savings and lowered healthcare prices for 98% of New Yorkers. The act has handed within the New York State Meeting yearly since 2015, and was sponsored by 31 out of the 63 members of the New York State Senate in 2019.
Whereas BNP’s aggressive advocacy towards the New York Well being Act – which has broad help within the public and within the state legislature – appears opposite to the missions of the general public entities that belong to the group, it’s consistent with the pursuits of the personal insurance coverage corporations and billionaires that set the Partnership’s agenda.
Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s agenda is ready by millionaire medical health insurance executives and billionaire company house owners
Whereas a single payer healthcare plan would decrease healthcare prices for tens of millions of New Yorkers, it might be devastating for the personal insurance coverage trade, whose executives make tens of millions of per yr and who’ve key governance roles on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.
Executives from the three largest medical health insurance suppliers within the area sit on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s board of directors. Board chair Arthur Wingerter is President of Univera, former chair David Anderson is CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of WNY, and board member Michael Cropp is CEO of Unbiased Well being. Wingerter and Anderson each sit on the board’s govt committee.
The three insurance coverage executives on BNP’s board collectively introduced dwelling greater than $5.1 million in pay funded by Western New Yorkers’ insurance coverage premiums, deductibles, and co-pays in 2018.
Wingerter is the President of Univera, the Buffalo-area subsidiary of Excellus Well being Plan, the place he was paid $535,243 in 2018. Excellus Well being Plan CEO Christopher Sales space earned $2.9 million in 2018. David Anderson, CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of WNY dad or mum firm HealthNow New York, was paid $2.four million by HealthNow in 2018. Michael Cropp is the CEO of Unbiased Well being Affiliation the place he was paid $2.2 million.
Along with sitting on the BNP board of administrators, Michael Cropp is a board member at America’s Well being Insurance coverage Plans (AHIP), a medical health insurance trade commerce group. AHIP performed a significant function in lobbying through the improvement of the Reasonably priced Care Act and was one of many founding members of a brand new group, Partnership for America’s Well being Care Future, that was fashioned to stymie nationwide motion in the direction of single-payer healthcare.
Cropp can be an appointee to the College at Buffalo Council, the governing physique of the most important faculty within the State College of New York system. The College at Buffalo is itself a Chairman’s Circle member of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, a membership stage whose annual price ticket was $47,994 in 2011.
Different healthcare sector companies backing Buffalo Niagara Partnership embody the 2 largest hospital methods within the area, Kaleida Well being and Catholic Well being. The chief executives of each corporations sit on the BNP board of administrators.
Athenex, a pharmaceutical firm that has acquired $225 million in public money via Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion program, can be a BNP member.
One other key Buffalo Niagara Partnership constituency are Western New York’s billionaires. Jeremy Jacobs, Terry Pegula, and Robert Wealthy have a collective wealth of $13.5 billion and are on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership board of administrators by executives from the businesses they personal. These billionaires, who can afford to pay out of pocket for the most effective medical care cash should buy, have an incentive to attempt to kill the New York Well being Act. Folks like them – people with excessive incomes and the house owners of corporations with many workers – will bear the most important share of the progressive tax to fund this system.
Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s marketing campaign towards the New York Well being Act
For a number of years, stopping the New York Well being Act has been a prime precedence in Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s official advocacy agenda, the menu of coverage priorities the group pronounces at a yearly occasion attended by state and native elected officers and executives from BNP corporations.
The Partnership can be a central member of an astroturf group that emerged in 2018 calling itself the Realities of Single Payer Coalition. The coalition has used social media ads to unfold disinformation about common healthcare and has a type on its web site to mechanically generate opposition emails to state legislators. Different members embody a bunch of different company advocacy teams affiliated with BNP, together with statewide affiliate the Enterprise Council of New York State, the Higher Rochester Chamber of Commerce, the Higher Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, the North Nation Chamber of Commerce, and Unshackle Upstate, one other entrance group run out of BNP’s places of work comprised of leaders from the BNP and the opposite upstate chambers of commerce.
Creating entrance teams to present the looks of well-liked help for pro-corporate insurance policies is an ordinary tactic in BNP’s playbook. Over time, the Partnership has sponsored a bunch of entrance teams, reminiscent of:
- Minimum Wage Reality Check, which opposed elevating the minimal wage;
- LNG for NY, which sought to increase fracked gasoline infrastructure in New York;
- Beneath One Roof, at present lobbying to roll again tenants’ rights; and
- Versatile Work for New York, at present lobbying to permit gig financial system corporations to keep away from labor rules by classifying staff as unbiased contractors.
Along with BNP’s well-funded personal insurance coverage trade members lobbying individually towards well-liked progressive insurance policies, BNP additionally lobbies on the identical payments, as do its affiliated chambers of commerce in different upstate areas, the Unshackle Upstate coalition of upstate chambers of commerce run out of BNP’s places of work, and the Enterprise Council of NYS, which is a coalition of upstate chambers of commerce and the key company pursuits that make up these upstate chambers.
The impact is to create an echo chamber of voices bombarding policymakers with coordinated speaking factors all backed by the identical set of company actors that revenue from preserving wages low and denying insurance coverage claims.
Public hospitals and universities legitimize BNP via funding and board seats
A number of Western New York faculties and universities have high-priced memberships to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership as is talked about above within the case of the College at Buffalo and which we wrote about within the context of BNP’s lobbying to kill New York’s bold local weather change legislation.
Equally essential within the context of BNP’s lobbying to guard insurance coverage executives multi-million greenback salaries is the truth that the Partnership is backed by space publicly owned and funded hospitals and medical care facilities.
Erie County Medical Middle (ECMC) and Roswell Park Complete Most cancers Middle are each New York State public profit firms that belong to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership on the Partnership Circle stage. Roswell Park CEO Candace Johnson (who was paid $1.2 million in 2018) and ECMC CEO Thomas Quatroche (who earned $875,000) each sit on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s board of administrators.
Backing a lobbying group working to maintain healthcare prices excessive is seemingly in direct battle with ECMC’s public purpose of “offering well being care companies and well being amenities for the advantage of the residents of the state of New York and the county of Erie, together with individuals in want of well being care companies with out the flexibility to pay.” The state law designating Roswell Park as a public profit company additionally attracts consideration to the institute’s goal of serving the general public “with out regard to their capacity to pay.”
Beneath the present personal medical health insurance system, the Commonwealth Fund lately discovered that 28% of adults with personal insurance coverage via their employer and 42% of adults with insurance coverage bought on have been underinsured, that means they’ve excessive deductibles and out-of-pocket bills relative to their earnings. A December 2019 Gallup ballot discovered that one out of every three People have delayed looking for medical care because of the price.
By funding and lending their credibility to Buffalo Niagara Partnership, ECMC and Roswell Park are utilizing their public cash and goodwill to make sure that insurance coverage executives can preserve making tens of millions of per yr whereas New Yorkers postpone or forego medical care out of worry of economic ruination.