Health Care is Financially Out-of-Reach for New Yorkers – and They Are Fed Up

New York City health care leaders called for more city and state efforts to address health care affordability during a panel discussion this morning at the Community Service Society of New York. Speakers including Dr Mitch Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO; Rodrigo Sanchez-Camus, Director of Legal Services at NMIC; Mark Levine, Chair of the NYC Council’s Health Committee; and Elisabeth Benjamin, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York. David Sandman, President of the New York State Health Foundation, moderated. (You can view a recording of the event here).

Panelists discussed solutions including a single-payer system, a city-funded consumer assistance program, and an overhaul of medical billing practices that leave patients paying more than they owe out of confusion and fear. The event also served as a launch party for a new grassroots effort called We the Patients (read more here) that gives New Yorkers as opportunity to advocate against unfair health care practices.

The panel was inspired by a survey (available here) which found that 50 percent of people in New York City had taken steps like cutting a pill, not filling a prescription, or skipping a treatment because they could not afford it. Most of the people surveyed had insurance.

Those results show that New Yorkers need help using their health insurance and fighting unfair medical bills. New York pioneered a model for providing that help called the Managed Care Consumer Assistance Program (MCCAP). MCCAP provided technical assistance to people enrolled in Managed Care Plans, including direct advocacy with insurance plans and legal assistance for things like inappropriate claims denials. Today all New Yorkers have access to that assistance through the Community Health Advocates and Navigator programs. Panelists suggested that the City provide its own funding to boost those services because of the disproportionate impact the affordability crisis has on city residents.  

The panel also discussed the role of hospitals and unfair billing practices in New York’s health care affordability crisis. One of the examples included an almost $300 facility fee charged to a person for what should have been a free preventive mammogram because it was provided in a hospital-affiliated practice. Some of the solutions discussed include eliminating the use of facility fees, requiring consolidated and standardized bills, and requiring that all hospitals use standard financial liability waivers so that patients are protected from signing away their rights before receiving medical care. We the Patient’s first petition focuses on seven common billing practices that result in patients owing more than they should (you can sign the petition here).