New York City’s budget will face strain from the increases and expenses of exorbitant hospital fees within a four year period. According to data provided by the Independent Budget Office, the cost of the city providing medical, dental, and optical care for its employees will increase to $8.2 billion by 2027, a rise in cost from the previous $6.1 billion. An increase will also be seen for the provision of medical care for retirees, from $3.1 billion to $3.9 billion. This means medical care will contribute to the city budget’s deficit by $3 billion in 2027.
The increase in medical costs has been attributed to major private hospitals charging exorbitant prices for medical procedures. Building services union 32BJ used its members’ medical billing records to show how hospitals were charging their clientele. Three hospitals charged very different amounts for an outpatient colonoscopy. New York-Presbyterian charges $10,368 while Mount Sinai Hospital requires a payment of $4,139, which is more than a 60% difference. The city’s public hospital charges even less, asking for a fee of $2,185.
The big differences in the fees charged by these hospitals show where the problem is. Various stakeholders such as labor unions, employers and lawmakers have complained about this pricing, asking that high medical costs be reduced. 32BJ claims that if medical costs are reduced and capped, it could save the city $2 billion per annum.
“Mayor [Eric] Adams inherited a broken and bloated healthcare and hospital pricing system. But the city can’t keep paying billions more than it should for past mistakes while businesses and workers struggle to afford the cost of care. The city needs to lead on this problem by using its legislative powers to expose and attack rising hospital prices that are eating more and more of our budgets and threaten the health and financial stability of working people,” said Manny Pastreich, President of SEIU 32BJ.
The high medical costs encouraged the City Council to draw up a bill that will require hospitals to inform city officials of their prices so they can be posted on a website the public can visit. This would also be a way to have hospitals reduce their prices for services provided.
“What this bill does, among other things, is it will for the first time ever, allow the city to harness its purchasing power to drive down costs, because we will finally know what it is that we are being charged by these hospitals for various procedures,” said the bill’s main sponsor, Manhattan Councilwoman Julie Menin.
The bill was discussed at a full City Council meeting on Thursday, February 23.