Nixon on Universal Health Care: 'Pass It and Then Figure Out How to Fund It'

Cynthia Nixon / Getty
September 6, 2018

New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon (D.) said in a new interview that lawmakers should pass her plan for a state universal health care program before they figure out how to fund it, adding that she does not have a way to pay for it.

"Pass it and then figure out how to fund it," Nixon told the New York Daily News editorial board on Wednesday, adding that she does not have a plan to pay for the program.

Nixon, a former "Sex and the City" actress turned progressive activist, has made universal health care a cornerstone of her campaign, despite providing few details on how such a program would be funded. She said Wednesday there is an "enormous desire" for a single-payer system.

The Daily News, which is deciding whether to endorse Nixon or incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.) for the Democratic nomination, noted that recent studies have shown that Nixon's idea for a single-payer health care program in New York could cost initially anywhere from $96 billion to $200 billion, dwarfing the $168.3 billion state budget for the 2019 fiscal year.

A recent analysis by the Rand Corporation found that if New York creates a program capable of providing health care coverage to the state's total population—estimated to be 19,849,399 as of 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—"significant new tax revenue" would be needed.

"Researchers estimate that new taxes for health care would need to be about $139 billion in 2022 and $210 billion in 2031 to fully finance [the] New York Health [Act]," the report said. "Under the status quo, the state is expected to collect about $89 billion in taxes from all sources in 2022; thus, the new taxes would be a 156 percent increase in total state tax revenue."

During her interview, Nixon floated the idea of raising taxes to pay for universal health care, although she did not provide specifics beyond an increase in New York's payroll tax, which is imposed on employers based on the wages they pay their employees.

Cuomo has taken a more cautious tone on single payer. While a guest on WNYC's "The Brian Lehrer Show" in September 2017, the governor praised the concept as a "good idea," but one that would need to be implemented at the federal level.

"I think it's a very exciting possibility," Cuomo said at the time. "But I think it's going to be a federal play. Our funding system basically relies on Medicaid from the feds. If they turn off that valve or slow that valve, there is no way we're going to be able to make that up in this state no matter what."

Throughout her campaign, Nixon has argued that raising taxes on New York's highest earners and corporations will not have an adverse effect on the state's economy.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary will be held on Sept. 13.