Fred Kowal: Hospitals and ACA

Mar 28, 2017

You’d think that public hospitals that treat 1.3 million patients every year, graduate many of New York’s primary care physicians and perform groundbreaking medical research would have a secure future.

Not in Donald Trump’s America. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo warns that nearly 3 million New Yorkers could lose their health insurance coverage if Obamacare is repealed.  

Where would they go for health care? The doors to SUNY’s teaching hospitals—in Brooklyn, Stony Brook, and Syracuse—are open to all, including the sickest and most vulnerable. No one is turned away, whether they can pay or not. If Obamacare is repealed, SUNY’s hospitals face a potential onslaught of newly uninsured patients seeking care.

That’s why earlier this month, UUP launched a TV and social media ad campaign focused on the hospitals.

These chronically underfunded hospitals will need a significant state investment to weather this perfect storm.

The hospitals’ already meager operating subsidy is facing a $19 million cut in the governor’s proposed Executive Budget. We thank the state Legislature for restoring this funding in their one-house bills. We’re urging them to go further this year;  to restore the subsidy to its original $128 million level, where it was in 2010.

It’s time for fairness. SUNY’s public hospitals are the only state agencies forced to cover operating costs, employee fringe benefits and debt service for needed hospital maintenance.

It’s time to make things right.

That’s why UUP is asking lawmakers for a five-year funding plan to allow the state to resume paying the hospitals’ employee fringe benefit expenses. And we’re pushing for a new $600 million capital program—$200 million for each of the three hospitals—and to have the state cover all debt service.

Why? Because SUNY’s state-run public hospitals offer so much to so many—even those who don’t live near one.

SUNY’s three teaching hospitals have medical schools that turn out many of the state’s primary care physicians. One out of every 5 doctors in New York graduated from a SUNY medical school or received graduate medical training in a SUNY-sponsored program.

The medical schools graduate more doctors than over 40 states every year. And New Yorkers make up more than 80 percent of SUNY’s first-year medical students

There are economic benefits as well. Every dollar invested in the hospitals yields 10 dollars in return. SUNY hospitals are major economic engines, with a combined workforce of 20,000. In Syracuse, Upstate Medical University is Central New York’s largest employer. Downstate Medical Center is Brooklyn’s 4th largest employer. 

The time is now for Albany to make a significant investment in SUNY’s public hospitals. We must act to ensure our hospitals are fully funded and can continue providing vital health care to all New Yorkers.  

Working with the governor, the Legislature and SUNY, let’s make it happen—this year. 

Dr. Fred Kowal is President of the 35,000 member United University Professions, which represents faculty on 29 New York State Campuses. UUP is an affiliate of NYSUT, The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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