The spread of coronavirus in the United States and New York over the last several weeks has demonstrated the need to bolster the health care of individual people through a single-payer health care system, state Sen. Gustavo Rivera said in an interview.

"This is precisely why moving to a single-payer health system like what the New York Health Act would propose actually helps us out in this situation," said Rivera, the Health Committee chairman in the state Senate who is also the bill's primary sponsor in the chamber. "If you have coverage, you wouldn't have to worry as a New Yorker whether you would be able to afford the test, whether you could afford the treatment if you are positive."

The bill is unlikely to gain passage in the state budget this year, and opponents have pointed to the cost of the proposal as potentially dwarfing the price tag for the current Medicaid system. Supporters contend a single-payer system will ultimately reduce costs overall with everyone insured.

In the more immediate-term, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration has directed insurance companies to waive the co-payment for coronavirus tests.

But the issue has been the availability of the tests themselves.

There are 176 confirmed coronavirus cases in New York as of Tuesday, while thousands more have entered self-quarantine — making the overall positive case total the likely tip of a far larger iceberg.  ​

"The main issue here is we need to identify as many people who have it as possible. The slowdowns from the federal government have been almost criminal," Rivera said. "We do not know how many people have the virus. This is incredibly contagious. So knowing who actually has it is the first step in being able to actually control it.