Syracuse University’s reported spike in COVID-19 cases at the start of the semester reflects a broad increase in cases nationally that should not go unnoticed. The threatening resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic is an essential reminder that we need to improve public health policy in Syracuse.

There are a variety of issues that exacerbate this resurgence. Long-term exposure to toxic substances, something people of color have been greatly exposed to in Syracuse because of I-81, increases the mortality rate of COVID-19. Compared to other urbanized states, New York ranks below average in timeliness of care, readmission, and safety of care, increasing medical and financial risks for residents.

In the existing multi-payer healthcare system, multiple parties — yourself, insurance, government, etc. — fund individual care. A trip to urgent care is usually paid for by an insurance company that leaves copays and deductibles for the individual to pay in addition to their monthly insurance costs. It’s a system that creates economic hurdles and discourages people from getting the care they need in the event of a health crisis.

New York Public Research Interest Group is a student-led policy research and advocacy group with chapters throughout the state. Our organization tracks legislation in multiple fields including voting rights, climate change and public health and works with politicians to pass laws that would help New Yorkers from all walks of life.

One of our recent efforts was the passage of the Fair Medical Debt Reporting Act, which prohibits medical debt from appearing on credit reports, in the New York State Assembly and State Senate with bipartisan support. We are now urging Governor Hochul to sign it into law.

We also provide resources to help New Yorkers find better healthcare and have released multiple reports analyzing health policy in the state that are the foundation of our advocacy. At SU and SUNY ESF, we have been registering students to vote throughout the semester so they can make their voices heard on issues like healthcare.

While NYPIRG is hard at work to ensure that people in New York get the healthcare they need, our community must come together to fight for healthier policies to be enacted in New York.

The New York Health Act is our latest initiative. Its passage would create a single-payer healthcare system in the state that would reduce costs for 98 percent of residents.

A recent report by the NYPIRG highlights that, in the past year alone, 52 percent of New Yorkers delayed or went without necessary medical care due to its associated costs. A report from Georgetown University showed that New York was one of the few states to see more children become uninsured during the pandemic. We see racial disparities in healthcare access as well, as Black New Yorkers are twice as likely, and Hispanic New Yorkers three times as likely, as white New Yorkers to have no health insurance.

I encourage those of you who want to fight for better healthcare and environmental justice to come to our kickoff event on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. in the NYPIRG Office at 756 South Crouse Ave. Here, you can get involved and learn more about our student advocacy organization.

Branden East is a senior studying Biology and Political Science. He can be reached at [email protected].


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