New York lawmakers and health care providers rallied in the state Capitol on Monday to push the Legislature to pass a law to help New Yorkers determine which hospital provides the treatment they need in the last two weeks of session.
The Healthcare Transparency Act, sponsored by state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, a Democrat from Queens, and Democrat Sen. Michelle Hinchey, of Saugerties, would require the state Health Department to collect and publish a list of the prohibited health care services within each general hospital across New York and publish that information on its website. Hospitals would be required to add a link to the department's website with information about their banned health services to their patients' bills of rights.
"We're here to fix a bureaucratic mess and essentially help people get the treatment that they need," Rozic said Monday outside the Senate chamber.
Patients are frequently denied when seeking end-of-life care such as organ transplants from living donors, dialysis or advanced life support; reproductive care including contraception counseling, miscarriage management, in vitro fertilization, abortion, sterilization surgery, treatment for an ectopic pregnancy; or gender-affirming care such as gender-affirming surgeries or hormone replacement.
"The legislation we sponsor would give patients the tools needed to determine whether or not their local hospital is right for them prior to walking through those doors, prior to admissions," Rozic said. "...It's very simple — it directs the Department of Health to do what they should be doing."
The bill would also require the department to publicly report how the denial of these services impacts patients and their access to care by community, race ethnicity and socioeconomic status, working to lay the groundwork for comprehensive health care around New York, advocates said.
More than 40 community hospitals across the state have closed since 2003, said Sen. Hinchey, who represents upstate communities in the Hudson Valley and southern Capital Region. Large health care systems control more than 70% of the state's available hospital beds.
"We are seeing mergers with larger hospitals that have decided to implement policy-based exclusions for types of care," Sen. Hinchey said. "We have to make sure that people know what kind of health care is in their backyard, what kind of health care they have access to, as they make their choices where to seek the health care or the reproductive care they need. Right now, that is not what's happening."
The department's report will help fill in the gaps for care in poor and rural communities in health care deserts, especially upstate, the senator said.
Dr. Corinne McLeod, an OBGYN within Albany Med’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, recounted experiences examining patients from across the state who were denied tubal sterilization or counseling for contraceptives because of the policies or religious affiliation of the health care facility they were visiting.
"They didn't know they weren't able to access their services until they were denied them," said McLeod, adding many health centers do not offer referrals to other facilities for contraceptive counseling.
McLeod has heard stories from other patients who were denied care for a miscarriage, or pregnant patients with a broken water denied care for a pregnancy that would not survive.
"...and they had been forced to carry that pregnancy until they became infected or preterm labor — they were never given options for ways to end that pregnancy," McLeod said. "All New Yorkers deserve access to a facility that meets their needs. There is no patient autonomy without knowledge."
The bill remains in the Health Committee in both legislative houses. The last scheduled day of session is June 2.
Advocates said the bill will allow patients to check what facilities provide the services they need, saving time, money and lives for care needed imminently, and recounted stories of New Yorkers looking to freeze their eggs, or get tubal ligation during a Cesarean section delivery.
The rally held Monday afternoon marks the first day of National Hospitals Week, and comes one week after the leaked U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.