Manhattan Councilwoman Julie Menin is putting her experience as the city’s former consumer affairs commissioner to good use in her proposed local legislation to require hospitals and other health-care providers to disclose the prices for their services and procedures, now a maddeningly opaque and complex tangle that no one can decipher.
Why is a colonoscopy priced at $10,368 at one Manhattan private hospital, but $4,139 at another? Or for a C-section, the same procedure costs $30,175 at one place but $55,077 elsewhere? And that’s just among private hospitals; the city’s public hospitals charge far less. Menin’s proposal applies to all of them.
Hopefully, the forthcoming measures, when passed by the Council under Speaker Adrienne Adams, will be able to bring some clarity to these confusing bills for both patients and payers (meaning employers, like the city itself, which pays nearly $10 billion in medical expenses yearly).
Should this be a state matter or even a federal concern? Yes and yes. But neither layer of government has proven it’s up to the challenge yet.
Albany’s Hospital Equity and Affordability Legislation (HEAL) bill passed by the Legislature, but not yet sent to the governor, is too watered down. As for Uncle Sam, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a subagency of the Department of Health and Human Services, required disclosure of prices starting last year — but nationwide, only one out of seven have complied, including 100% failure among New York City hospitals.
Menin’s bill would fill the void and finally give health-care consumers here a little bit of leverage to drive prices down. Note, this is not regulating any prices, just disclosing what is being charged, the bare minimum in what’s supposed to be a market-based economy.
New Yorkers are blessed with the best hospitals in the world and seven medical schools in the city. The doctors and nurses and other professionals provide excellent health care. We have no beef with any of them. It’s the folks in the billing offices that too often make us sick.