New York state Sen. Jeff Klein's newfound 'support' for the New York Health Act doesn't mean much after he helped to make sure it never got a vote.
New York state Sen. Jeff Klein is touting his support for a health care bill he helped block, even as a group fighting the legislation continues to provide massive financial support to his campaign.
On paper, both Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein and his progressive primary opponent Alessandra Biaggi support bringing universal health care to New York state. But Klein’s “support” for the New York Health Act does not mean much when the coalition he led is responsible for making sure it never got a vote in the state Senate.
Klein is the founder of the so-called Independent Democratic Conference — a group of elected Democrats who refused to caucus with their own party from 2011 until earlier this year. The group empowered the GOP, giving Republicans majorities in the state Senate even when outnumbered by elected Democrats. In exchange, IDC members got special committee posts and larger paychecks — while Republicans gave themselves crucial leadership roles.
For the last four years, Democrats in the New York State Assembly have successfully voted to pass the New York Health Act (NYHA). The bill would create a universal health care system without premiums, co-pays, or deductibles, and could lead to savings for 98 percent of New Yorkers.
Officially, Klein supports the legislation.
“A single-payer system would create the peace of mind that residents could have access to quality medical care including outpatient and inpatient medical care, primary and preventive care, prescription drugs and laboratory tests,” Klein said in 2017.
However, Klein has never voted for the NYHA as the bill has repeatedly died in the GOP-controlled Senate Health and Finance Committees — committees that Republicans only control thanks to the backing of rogue Democrats like Klein.
Publicly, Klein’s conference insisted it was trying to come up with a bipartisan deal to get the bill passed. But behind the scenes, Klein and the rest of the IDC were raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the Greater New York Hospital Association, which opposes the plan for universal medicine.
The IDC dissolved earlier this year (although one Democrat is still caucusing as a Republican) and Klein is still telling voters that he will help pass the landmark legislation if re-elected in November.
“I endorse the New York Health Act,” he proclaimed at an August debate.
But Klein’s actions still are not matching up to his statements. Despite formally rejoining Democrats in the Senate, Klein is still receiving massive campaign contributions from the IDC’s network of corporations, LLCs, and lobbyists — including the Greater New York Hospital Association.
The GNYHA has not warmed to the legislation since the IDC’s collapse. In fact, just days before Klein reiterated his support for the bill at the debate, the group put out a press release describing its “major concerns” with the New York Health Act and slamming “the massive cost of implementing and maintaining the NYHA.”
The group is backing Klein nonetheless, throwing over $300,000 behind the campaigns of him and one other ex-IDC senator.
When Democratic primary voters head to the polls this week, they will have to decide what they can put more faith in — the word of Jeff Klein or the word of his financial backers.