The high price of hospital care is being targeted by several new bills that City Councilor Julie Menin plans to introduce in the coming days – including laws that would impose severe financial penalties on hospitals if they failed to provide the city with pricing data that is now nearly impossible for the public.
The bill package, which aims to create an office in charge of the hospital, aims to better understand and remedy the rapidly increasing costs of hospitals in the city.
Menin told the Daily News that she expects to submit the bills to the council as soon as they are drawn up – most likely within the next two weeks – and described the issue as “which affects every New Yorker.”
“Patients do not know how much they will have to pay for procedures they desperately need,” Menin told the Daily News. “This billing package I’m working on aims to create a clear information portal, essentially an accountability bureau, that would tell New Yorkers how much hospitals are charging for different procedures.”
Menin, who served as former mayor Bill de Blasio as consumer protection commissioner and now represents the Upper East Side, said hospitals failing to provide the city with vital data could be penalized by the city withholding funding and other benefits. Traditional fines would be unlikely under statutes due to state laws preventing the city from taking such action.
The pursuit of transparency also has strong political support.
Several unions – including SEIU 32BJ, DC 37 and the United Federation of Teachers – support the implementation of the laws, as do the Real Estate Employment Advisory Council, which represents many of the city’s apartment owners.
Henry Garrido, executive director of DC 37, said recent hospital price increases are aimed at maximizing revenues and “have nothing to do with quality of care.”
“They are listed as non-profit organizations, but not operating as non-profit organizations,” he said. “They are exempt from tax. They get all these benefits from the city and yet they are not held accountable.
Last week, this coalition took off multi-million advertising campaign presenting the problem. Menin’s legislative pressure also comes as the city tries to cut the health care costs it pays to retired council workers. This controversial plan, first put forward by former mayor Bill de Blasio, is now in the hands of the City Council, which Mayor Adams asked for an amendment to push the modernized, less expensive plan forward.
Data collected by Rand Corporation and 32BJ, which represent approximately 150,000 construction workers, show that health insurance providers through unions and private employers are charged an average of 300% more by private hospitals in the city than Medicare for the same services. The data also revealed that hospital costs are rising much faster than inflation.
As a result, unions and employers who pay for workers’ insurance plans – and the workers they cover – struggle to keep costs rising. According to data compiled by Health Fund 32BJ, the discrepancy between trade union and city wages compared to what Medicare pays translates into lower wages for workers and higher costs for the government.
An internal 32BJ report released in March estimated that if healthcare costs had risen at the rate of inflation over the past decade, an additional $ 5,000 in annual salaries would be available for each member.
“By paying hospital rates above Medicare rates, New York City could overpay by up to $ 2.4 billion,” the report said. “At the same time, private hospitals receive hundreds of millions of property tax exemptions from the city.”
The Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents nearly 300 hospitals and medical facilities in the region, did not immediately respond to the news.
Manny Pastreich, 32BJ’s secretary-treasurer, said the data in his report was available to the union because of the deal he has with his health insurer.
These figures show not only the Medicare fees discrepancy, but also the price of one hospital in the city comparing prices to those of its competitors.
For example, based on billing data, a caesarean section costs an average of over $ 55,000 at the Montefiore Medical Center, $ 45,000 at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, $ 30,000 at Mount Sinai, and nearly $ 18,000 at the city’s Health + Hospitals network.
Pastreich said Menin’s pressure is “the first step to solving the overload problem.”
“You cannot have affordable healthcare without responsibility in the hospital,” he said. “We saw that we could save hundreds of millions of dollars if we could cut the costs down to something reasonable… For the city, it’s billions of dollars. So ultimately, receiving this information allows us to say, “Okay, here are the hospitals where charges are overcharged and by how much. Here’s the average cost, and then we’ll try to go somewhere reasonable in the middle.
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