Broken bones and empty pockets: NYC health care advocates, unions demand affordability by delivering petition

It costs an arm and a leg to fix an arm and a leg.

On Feb. 7, a coalition advocating for affordable health care at local hospitals hand-delivered a petition to NewYork-Presbyterian CEO Stephen Corwin signed by thousands of New Yorkers.

Labor unions such as 32BJ joined elected officials Comptroller Brad Lander and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine in a Monday evening rally outside NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital on East 71st Street. The group lampooned private hospitals like Presbyterian for charging significantly more for routine procedures in comparison to other area hospitals. 

“These are the folks who have been teaching in our schools, who have been working in our buildings, been keeping our institutions going all throughout this time. And the least NewYork Presbyterian can do is negotiate with them in good faith for fair prices to get the healthcare that every New Yorker, including all of these New Yorkers, need,” Lander said, flanked by fuming allies.

Comptroller Brad Lander. Photo by Dean Moses

The petition delivered during the rally was addressed to the leaders of all five of New York’s largest private hospitals and is promised to be shared digitally with all the hospital systems and their respective CEOs.

“This is not a fight with the amazing, hardworking doctors, nurses and healthcare staff of the hospital doing incredible work every day, saving lives,” 32BJ President Kyle Bragg said. “This fight is with the hospital CEOs who decided to enrich themselves off the backs of working New Yorkers and endanger access to affordable, quality healthcare.”

The coalition argued that higher healthcare prices does not equate to a higher quality of care, instead they claim the additional funds go directly to the hospital CEOs, bypassing the staff completely. But they also say Presbyterian is not the only culprit. According to a 2020 study by The RAND Corporation — a research organization — in 2018 New York hospitals charged an average of 302% of the Medicare reimbursement rate for the same procedures.

32BJ President, Kyle Bragg says CEOs are to blame for the unaffordable healthcare costs. Photo by Dean Moses

“Hospital pricing in New York City is broken. It is not transparent. It is not consistent. It is not fair. It is not affordable. And the people who pay that price are you, the working people of the city who keep the city running,” Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said.

After amNewYork Metro reached out NewYork Presbyterian Hospital for comment, a spokesperson simply said: “We care for everyone who comes through our doors, regardless of their ability to pay. All New Yorkers deserve the very best care, and we are continually focused on maintaining our patients’ access to the providers they trust.”

Essential workers are unable to afford basic procedures at private hospitals due to high prices. Photo by Dean Moses