To the Editor:

New York City public-employee union members are among The Chief’s most-loyal readers. Your pages are often the only place to find information that they need to know. Without it, they may miss out and fail to act and it can cost them dearly.

An example is legislation now pending in Albany to protect New Yorkers from price-gouging by hospitals on out-of-network emergency charges. It’s not a topic likely to be of interest to the tabloids.

It’s essential that our state lawmakers pass legislation to curb outrageous out-of-network hospital charges before the legislative session ends late next month.

Specifically, under current law, any hospital that lacks a contract with a patient’s insurance provider may charge their insurer any amount they choose. When insurers pay more for exorbitant out-of-network costs, patients end up paying more in the form of higher rates the following year. When the higher health-care premiums are paid for by employers (which is the case for many unions), patients can still lose because higher health-care costs can mean less money for raises.

Although far from perfect, New York State has been ahead of the curve in protecting workers in recent years. For instance, it has contained the extravagant, confiscatory charges of emergency doctors who don’t participate in the network plans of the hospitals in which they work. Often the patient is not in a state or position to make inquiries when receiving their services in acute situations. Since 2014, an independent arbitration process can mitigate the arbitrary and astronomical bills that unchecked greedy doctors send.

In a Crain’s New York Business article, co-authors Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, Heather Briccetti, CEO of the Business Council of New York State, and Chuck Bell, programs director at Consumer Report, strongly urge the passage of this patient protection legislation, because it would extend “this same level of transparency and accountability…to all emergency room charges, not just doctors…We all need to work together…to ensure that New Yorkers are not caught in the middle between the hospitals and health insurers.”

An independent Yale University study of the effects of the 2014 legislation confirms that the change brought whopping relief from the predatory billing of out-of-network emergency doctors in hospitals.

We make sacrifices all our lives to build “nest eggs” and reserve for future pleasures, but as things currently stand, they can be torpedoed by a few wickedly excessive hospital charges. If this patient-protection legislation (A.264-B/S.3171-A) is passed in Albany in June, this act of law would also be an act of mercy.

Let’s keep after our State Senators and Assembly Members.


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