June 27, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Harlem, NY—New York Hotel Trades Council and their family members haven’t had to worry about a lack of health insurance for 65 years, long before the Affordable Care Act took effect. That’s because the union, representing 33,000 active hotel workers, in cooperation with the Hotel Association of New York City, is able to deliver an integrated healthcare delivery system at five on-site facilities throughout the city.
We had the opportunity to video interview Dr. Robert Greenspan, the CEO for the NYHTC Employee Benefit Funds, at the Harlem Health Center and asked him how is the union able to provide comprehensive care at on-site facilities such as primary care, specialty care, radiology, dental, physical therapy and laboratory.
“The funds are the beneficiaries of monies from a collective bargaining unit with the hotel association, about 250 hotels here in the city. Those monies are entrusted to us to provide benefits and that’s what we do,” said Dr. Greenspan.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) since being enacted four years ago is helping to drive down health care spending. In fact, Bloomberg BusinessWeek just reported on Wednesday that the U.S.'s Gross Domestic Product’s decline in the first quarter by 2.9 percent is, paradoxically, attributable to the U.S. spending $6.4 billion less on health care in the first quarter than in the last quarter of 2013, according to the story.
That’s good news for patients and hardworking Americans, but HTC members have been reaping benefits from an integrated delivery system (IDS) for 65 years. Before ACA, the U.S. health care system was criticized for too much spending as 40 million Americans went uninsured.
According to Dr. Greenspan, however, the union’s IDS is able to deliver high quality care at about “one-third of the cost of buying it in the commercial world, if you can buy a plan with the expansive benefits like ours.”
The five on-site facilities, with a new Brooklyn facility slated to open next year, also treat HTC members’ families and retirees, which amounts to about 90,000 lives getting treatment and care.
The Hotel Trades Council is one of a select few unions in the city that offer an IDS to their members, but the idea isn’t a new one; they’ve been doing it since 1949.
“People think of it as this new, innovative model, but we’ve been doing the same exact thing for 65 years,” Dr. Greenspan said.
The $110 million Brooklyn facility will be quite different from the Harlem Health Center, which opened 11 years ago.
“Our vision has changed from 14 years ago. We’re now in the state-of-the-art electronic medical record. We can envision that technology is going to offer lots of other opportunities, maybe even telemedicine; we’re trying to build that technology into our new facility and look at new ways of delivering affordable care,” said Dr. Greenspan.
Given the evolution in the U.S. health care system since 2010, we asked what aspect of health care delivery keeps him up at night. It turns out the city’s success and gentrification worries him.
“Our members tend to live in neighborhoods where we can treat them. But as the city has become successful and gentrified, our members are being pushed out farther and father,” said Greenspan. “What keeps me awake is how are we going to capture those patients. We’re trying to figure out ways to be able to keep people in our plan even if they are not living directly associated with one of our facilities.”