Ben Kallos talked with Roosevelt Islanders at the Tram Reopening Ceremony in 2017.
Ben Kallos talked with Roosevelt Islanders at the Tram Reopening Ceremony in 2017.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that his administration "...will launch the largest, most comprehensive plan in the nation to guarantee health care for every New Yorker," it was music to the ears of Ben Kallos whose City Council District includes Roosevelt Island.

A progressive Democrat who's championed this idea at City Hall, Kallos told The Daily, "I stand with Mayor Bill de Blasio in making sure the City is focused on guaranteeing primary and specialty care for 600,000 uninsured New Yorkers."

He added some critical perspective, "The importance of this cannot be understated as federally Americans are losing access to healthcare here we are doing the best we can to expand coverage. New York City will serve as an example to the rest of the country, if we can do it here, it can be done anywhere."

Already leading the nation in accessible health care for all through a system that allows anyone to get free services simply by walking into the emergency room of a City hospital, de Blasio stepped that up by opening up Health & Hospitals's MetroPlus insurance plan.

The Mayor commented that the existing system, while more generous than almost all others, was still "no way to live. Health care is a right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it."

According to the press release, "The plan will serve the 600,000 New Yorkers without insurance by strengthening NYC’s public health insurance option, MetroPlus, and guaranteeing anyone ineligible for insurance – including undocumented New Yorkers – has direct access to NYC Health + Hospitals’ physicians, pharmacies and mental health and substance abuse services through a new program called NYC Care.

"All services will be affordable on a sliding scale. The programs will include customer-friendly call lines to help New Yorkers – regardless of their insurance – make appointments with general practitioners, cardiologists, pediatricians, gynecologists and a full spectrum of health care services."

City managers project a two-year ramp up period before the new system, which will cost around $100 million annually, is in full operation.

Like other actions across the nation, this represents a powerful step to take back control from a federal government that's grown out of touch and  unresponsive to needs on the local level.