Local Hospitals Generally Upbeat about Healthcare Package

Local hospitals are cautiously optimistic that they and their patients will benefit from the health care reform bill President Obama signed today. Dr. Herb Pardes, head of New York-Presbyterian, says hospitals will lose billions of dollars over the next decade. But, on balance, he thinks they’ll come out ahead, because the reform bill will create a healthier population.

"It eliminates pre-existing conditions, the lifetime cap, increases portability, enables dependants to stay with their families and on their insurance until 26," he says.

Pardes says some of the last-minute changes in the legislation will cushion the blow for New York area hospitals--by holding them to slightly less stringent standards, where they won’t be penalized for certain kinds of hospital re-admissions. Government officials want to cut down on re-admissions, which drive up health care costs. But Pardes and others say that New York City hospitals shouldn’t be held to the same standard as hospitals like the Mayo Clinic, because the low-income population here has many more health problems.

Pam Brier, the CEO of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, says the reform package is a mixed bag. She says more patients will be insured, but payments for many procedures could be lower.

"The hope is that the good will balance out the bad," Brier says, "and that we will be smart enough to figure out how to use technology and become more seamless systems for our patients.”

Hospitals have seen a series of cuts in recent years from private and government insurers. Staten Island Congressman Michael McMahon, the only local Democrat to vote against the House health care reform bill, said he was worried it could drive hospitals into bankruptcy. McMahon said he was particularly concerned about funding cuts to Maimonides hospital, in his district, but Brier says she expects the cuts to be much lower than initially thought.