HEALTH REFORM: Hospitals hoping for some relief

By Connor Adams Sheets and Howard Koplowitz

Hospital officials across Queens followed the health care debate closely, hoping to ascertain exactly what the effects of the legislation might be on their fragile economic states.

New York Hospital Queens and North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System officials praised the concept of covering more borough residents but remain reserved about possible repercussions the law may have when it is fully implemented, preferring to wait until they better understand it.

“Providing insurance coverage for all is obviously long overdue and must be celebrated as a success. The legislation, however, is so complex with so many interlocking parts that we must be careful not to over-exaggerate its benefits,” North Shore-LIJ Chief Executive Officer Michael Dowling said in a statement. “Time and the impact of its implementation will be the ultimate jury. This is just the beginning of another reform journey –– not its end.”

Dr. Stephen Rimar, senior vice president and chief medical officer at NYHQ, agreed but went further, indicating which possible outcomes would be positive for Queens hospitals and which could have detrimental or even disastrous results.

“The major feature we’ve heard so far is that it will increase the number of people who have health insurance. If this is true, we in general believe that people with insurance will take better advantage of the health care system,” Rimar said. “So if everybody having insurance prompts people to go more to their private doctor for care rather than the emergency rooms, that would be good for the borough because the emergency rooms are jammed.”

This legislation may lead to the further positive impact of keeping more doctors and hospitals in the borough, he said, as people with insurance more often seek proper care.

But Rimar is worried about possible downsides to the law, which could leave hospitals in a worse position than they were before the legislation passed.

“I don’t know how America is going to pay for this insurance,” he said. “If some of that comes on the back of city and state funds, then it could actually hurt doctors and hospitals because hospitals certainly receive funding from the state and doctors and hospitals depend on Medicare and Medicaid. If that money goes away from the state and in some cases the city, then that could hurt us more than the potential benefit of everyone having health insurance. I’m waiting for it to play out. I’d like to say I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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