New Yorkers ask for more transparency and more protections from health care providers
New York – Scores of union members from two of the city’s largest unions, 32BJ SEIU and DC 37, attended a City Council hearing on Thursday where representatives of their unions and a union-administered health fund testified about runaway charges in hospitals in the city and how they threaten the well-being of working New Yorkers. Many union members were forced to remain outside the hearing room where the Committees for Health and Hospitals met jointly.
The unions presented testimony on the effects of skyrocketing costs for health care and asked the City Council to take action to curb practices by hospitals and health care providers in the city that unreasonably ratchet up costs for needed care, putting at risk the ability of working families to keep up with costs, even when they have quality health insurance.
“The health care we have in our contract makes a huge difference in my life. It covers my two sons, and does not require any premium payments to come out of my paycheck,” said 32BJ member Luchiana Owens at a press conference before the start of the committee hearing, “It is important though that health care costs do not rise too fast. If health care costs are out of control, our employers feel there is less room for wage increases, pension payments, training and other benefits members like me rely on to support our families and improve our lives.”
Several non-profit hospitals in the city allow some of their providers to charge well beyond the norm of what is reimbursed. For example, 32BJ’s Health Fund, which provides health care for 200,000 people who are members of the union or in their families, paid some out-of-network providers at Northwell hospitals almost 60 times what was paid to in-network providers in other comparable hospitals.
“32BJ fights hard to ensure our members have access to high quality, affordable health care. Hospital systems that give privileges to out-of-network providers to deliver standard services are simply making it harder for costs to be contained and for working people to access the kind of care they deserve,” said Larry Engelstein, 32BJ SEIU Secretary-Treasurer, in his testimony at the hearing. “Managing health care costs is therefore crucial to ensuring we can continue to win family-sustaining jobs for workers in New York City.”
“The single factor that has had the most profound, negative impact on healthcare coverage in NYC is the cost of in- and out-patient care provided by the City’s non-profit, private hospitals,” said District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “DC 37 and our brother and sister unions that make up the Municipal Labor Committee are doing our part to reduce hospital bills with changes in the design of our health plans. But the private hospital systems are not doing their part to contain costs.”
The unions called on the Council to institute needed protections for New Yorkers against these “surprise bills” and other inconsistent and harmful pricing practices by hospitals receiving tax breaks and other benefits from the city.
With 175,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 85,000 in New York, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.