Guest post by Lois Uttley, Raising Women’s Voices
The Mount Sinai Health System has just unveiled its plan for construction of a new 70-bed Beth Israel Hospital to replace the current 800-bed facility in lower Manhattan. Before Mount Sinai can move ahead with construction of the new facility, it will have to win Certificate of Need (CON) approval from the New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC). But the PHHPC, as currently constituted, includes no representatives of consumer health advocacy organizations who could ask about the likely impact on patients of having Beth Israel dramatically downsized from its current 800-bed capacity to the planned 70-bed new facility.
That’s why HCFANY and a number of other consumer health advocacy coalitions and organizations are urging Governor Cuomo to sign a bill (A.4071/S.00870) that would increase the number of consumer health advocates on the PHHPC. The Council reviews and approves or disapproves CON applications for transactions (such as mergers, acquisitions and other major changes) involving hospitals, health systems, ambulatory surgery centers, diagnostic and treatment centers, nursing homes and home health agencies.
Currently, the PHHPC has many representatives from health care providers, but there are no representatives of consumer health advocacy organizations. Existing Public Health Law requires that “at least one” of the 24 PHHPC members be from a consumer health advocacy organization, but that seat has been vacant for over two years. Under the bill awaiting Cuomo’s signature, at least four seats on an enlarged PHHPC would be set aside for consumer health advocates.
A report published last year by the New York State Health Foundation — “Empowering New York Consumers in an Era of Hospital Consolidation” — noted that CON review boards in several other states have higher numbers, and percentages, of consumer health advocacy representatives. In New Jersey, for example, five of the nine members are consumer representatives. In Maryland, nine of the 15 members are consumers.
Over the last 20 years, 41 hospitals across New York State have closed, while other hospitals have eliminated maternity and emergency departments or merged with large health systems. As a result of this consolidation, New Yorkers have had to travel further to obtain care and seek treatment from unfamiliar providers, or have seen the price of their health care increase as growing health systems gain more negotiating power with health insurers. Since continued hospital consolidation in New York is likely, given economic and clinical trends, it is critically important for the state to better engage affected consumers and ensure that their concerns are reflected in oversight of the health industry through the CON process.
HCFANY urges consumer groups around the state to write letters of support to the Governor urging him to sign this bill. Send your letters to:
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Send copies of your letter to HCFANY at firstname.lastname@example.org and to the bill’s sponsors at their district offices:
Senator Brad Holyman
322 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1700
New York, NY 10001