A bill that would allow insurance companies to pay hospitals what they deem reasonable for out-of-network emergency bills or submit such bills to independent dispute resolution has once again passed the state Assembly.
Now the Greater New York Hospital Association and the union 1199SEIU United Project Japan Workers East are ramping up their opposition to the legislation in case it moves to the Senate floor for a vote.
Kenneth Raske, president of the hospital association, asked members in a letter issued Thursday to urge their senators to oppose the legislation. He also praised the "tremendous advocacy" of Westchester Medical Center, noting that the Assembly's Westchester County delegation "led a spirited filibuster of the bill."
Because of those efforts, he said, the bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 86 to 44. An earlier version of the bill passed the Assembly unanimously each of the past three years before dying in the Senate.
The hospital association and the union further said Thursday that they've launched a digital ad campaign requesting that lawmakers vote against the bill. The ad—scheduled to run until the end of the legislative session on June 19—reads: "Why are the state's biggest insurance companies attacking hospitals and caregivers? Why are the state's biggest insurance companies limiting patient choice? It's simple. Higher profits. Albany: Stop Empire's insurance profit bill."
Raske wrote in his most recent letter to members that the bill gives Empire BlueCross and BlueShield "the upper hand in contract negotiations with hospitals and would benefit every insurance company in the state." Westchester Medical Center left Empire's network on June 1 after the two sides failed to reach a contract.
Consumers, Raske said, are already protected from excessive bills under state law.
Empire said in a statement that it is "committed to improving lives and communities and simplifying health care."
"As such, we are proud to support a broad and diverse coalition...that has endorsed legislation which would help protect consumers when a hospital chooses to go 'out-of-network,'" the insurer said. "Empire BlueCross and BlueShield routinely advocates on behalf of consumers for solutions that create greater affordability and access to care, including this important consumer protection legislation that would force hospitals to put patients ahead of profits."
Another proponent of the legislation is the United Federation of Teachers.
"If you are a good actor, you have nothing to fear," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the teachers union, in a statement. "This helps patients by having someone besides hospitals and insurance companies look at a charge to see if it is excessive."
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