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Call for Immediate Action As 4 Million New Yorkers Face Loss of Healthcare

“What hospitals are doing is not right. We are around tenants, contractors. We are at the front lines.” — Ronnie Correa, building doorman and porter, 32BJ SEIU. Above: Fellow union members at area airports fight for health care coverage at their jobs.

New York, NY – Union leaders, law makers and health experts are rallying this week against predatory hospital pricing and the looming threat of four million New Yorkers losing their in-network health coverage.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is threatening to leave Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield’s network on May 30, immediately subjecting millions of patients  to huge out-of-network charges and disruptions to their healthcare coverage.

NewYork-Presbyterian hospital charges 370% of the Medicare reimbursement rate, despite receiving a $687 million taxpayer-funded bailout from the CARES Act and an untold amount from the American Recovery Act. Reigning in their inflated costs could save the city billions of dollars that could be spent on public services, wages for workers and budget shortfalls.  California, North Carolina and others are already pushing back against similar predatory hospital pricing.

Manny Pastreich, vice-resident, 32BJ SEIU, denounced “out-of-control hospital pricing” and called the situation a “time bomb ticking” during a meeting with reporters Tuesday morning.

Union president Kyle Bragg highlighted the crisis facing “Black and Brown workers who are unemployed and face food insecurity and COVID-19” and said predatory hospital pricing that “eats up wages” and threatens the survival of working class New Yorkers.

“The costs come out of workers’ pockets,” Bragg said. “We must look at ways to make it easier to work here and stay here in New York.”

DC 37  represents 150,000 essential city workers and 1,000 retirees. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed the lives of some 200 union members. Executive Director Henry Garrido called the reduction of in-network coverage a “travesty” and “simply criminal.”

“[Hospitals] care more about profits than people,” Garrido said. 

32BJ member Ronnie Correa works as a building doorman and porter. After being stricken with COVID-19, Correa was told he wasn’t covered for some of the side effects he was experiencing. Exploding hospital costs are now preventing him from seeking further treatment. Many of his co-workers feel the same.

“What hospitals are doing is not right,” Correa said. “We are around tenants, contractors. We are at the front lines.”

NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera, chair of the Senate Health Committee, emphasized the urgency of the current moment saying, “The system is broken. Presbyterian and Blue Shield are negotiating. We have to ask this negotiation be done in good faith. We have to make sure these workers and unions are not impacted in a negative way.”

32BJ member Elijah MacKay suffered through COVID-19 along with his entire family. The veteran Security Officer at 140 Broadway said the cost of private health insurance is already sky high and keeps increasing.

“Our employers say they don’t have the money to give us raises and pay health care costs,” MacKay said. “I need both. We are essential. We put our life on the line and our families’.”

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