Advocates, Lawmakers, and Directly-Impacted New Yorkers Hold Press Conference at State Capitol Urging Lawmakers to Pass Hospital Transparency Bill

(Albany, New York – May 9, 2022) — Today, on the first day of National Hospital Week, advocates, lawmakers and directly-impacted New Yorkers  gathered at 4:00 p.m. ET at the state Capitol urging the passage of the New York Hospital Transparency Bill (A.6334/S.5400) sponsored by Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Nily Rozic. The press event was organized by LGBTQ, gender equity, reproductive rights, end of life care, separation of church and state, and civil liberties organizations and advocates who know that requiring hospital transparency is a common-sense public health imperative, particularly given the imminent fall of Roe v. Wade

Whether they know it or not, New Yorkers across the state are at risk of being turned away from hospitals when they need reproductive health care, end-of-life care, gender-affirming care, and other types of sensitive health care, due to policy-based exclusions that are not based in medical science or public health. No one should be turned away from a hospital when they need health care, yet some hospitals deny treatment based on the decision-making of non-medical personnel. To make matters worse, because information about what care hospitals provide is often impossible to access, patients cannot determine whether their local hospital provides the care they need.

A.6334/S.5400 would offer patients the tools they need to determine whether the hospital in their area provides the care they seek prior to admission. In addition, it will give New York the tools to identify regions in the state where particular types of care are unavailable and to understand the impacts of such gaps on communities and individuals statewide. The legislation would require the Department of Health (DOH) to collect a list of policy-based exclusions from each general hospital and to publish that information in easy to understand language online, and  require hospitals and health insurers to add a link to the DOH website as part of their existing disclosures regarding patients’ rights and responsibilities, so that patients and insurers can easily access it. Importantly, the legislation also requires DOH to report publicly and to the New York state legislature on the impact of policy-based exclusions on patients’ ability to access quality, comprehensive, affordable care near their residences and whether and how access to care varies by community, as well as by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. This report will provide the state with critical information to end health care deserts statewide. 

Senator Michelle Hinchey, Assemblymember Nily Rozic, and advocates from the New York Civil Liberties Union, National Institute for Reproductive Health, and the Schenectady Coalition for Healthcare Access shared testimonies illustrating the need for increased transparency on which services New York State hospitals do and do not provide. 

“It has never been more important to fight with everything we have to protect and expand health care in New York,” said Senator Michelle Hinchey. “Hospitals across New York State are downsizing or closing at alarming rates, resulting in our already medically-underserved communities losing even more access to the healthcare services they need, specifically including reproductive care. This is an unacceptable reality, and our legislation will ensure that New Yorkers are informed about the services that are unavailable to them at their local hospital before it’s too late. By identifying these critical gaps in service through this legislation, we will have the knowledge we need so that we can better fight to increase all healthcare services across New York and deliver the healthcare equity that our communities deserve. 

“Recent attacks on abortion and health care access have laid bare how crucial hospital care is and how little we know about what care hospitals provides,” said Assemblywoman Rozic. “No patient should be denied the care they need simply because they had no way to know that their local hospital excluded certain procedures. This legislation will go a long way to ensure New Yorkers have access to the data they need in order to make informed decisions about their health.”

Gabriella Larios, Equal Justice Works Fellow at the New York Civil Liberties Union

“New Yorkers are often unaware that their local hospital will not provide the health care they need.  Denials of care are preventable and too often jeopardize people’s lives and, in some cases, have proven deadly. With reproductive rights on the federal chopping block and states around the country attacking gender affirming care, New York state must pass legislation that requires hospital transparency to help identify health care deserts and ensure that people can get the information they need to make time-sensitive and important health care decisions.”

 Organizations in support of the legislation but unable to attend have shared testimonies below.

Danielle Castaldi-Micca, Vice President of Political and Government Affairs at the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund.

With unprecedented attacks on abortion access, we need to make sure that New Yorkers have real, meaningful access to reproductive health care – and that starts with ensuring that everyone who wants or needs that care has the tools to determine where they can find it.  We thank Senator Hinchey and Assemblymember Rozic for sponsoring A.6344/S.5400, which will require the Department of Health to collect and publish a list of banned healthcare services–including abortion care–from each hospital. The legislation further requires the Department of Health to report how the denial of these services impacts patients, with a particular focus on how access to care varies by community, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. This is a critical step in protecting reproductive health care in New York – and we encourage the legislature to pass this bill immediately.

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality

“Everyone should have access to the medical care they need to live healthy, happy, and successful lives. With this important reform, patients will be empowered to find the care that they need and to avoid delays that could put their lives at risk. Too often transgender people are turned away by hospitals and denied access to life-saving health care. By increasing transparency, we can help to ensure that we receive the medical care we need, when we need it.”

Corinne Carey, senior campaign director for New York and New Jersey for Compassion & Choices

“It is impossible for hospital patients to make fully-informed medical decisions unless the hospital provides them with readily available and easily accessible information about any of the hospital’s restrictions on their medical care options. New York provides patients with a wide range of end-of-life options. They include hospice, palliative care, pain management, as well as the withdrawal of non-beneficial treatments, and voluntarily stopping eating and drinking with palliative support. But the availability of these options is meaningless if patients cannot access them. That’s why hospitals have an ethical and moral obligation to adequately inform patients about any of the hospital’s restrictions on these options prior to patients seeking hospital care.” 

Nicole Klein Knight, National Coordinator of Jews for a Secular Democracy

“Without the New York Transparency Act our freedoms to be informed and make our own health care decisions are being denied. Jews for a Secular Democracy seeks a pluralistic society where the public good is best determined in a religiously neutral setting, as intended by the US Constitution. When a private institution is the sole provider of health services in any given region, at the very least the public is entitled to know what services will be provided and whether factors other than medical best-practices will be used to determine care. This is a basic freedom and human right, and this law will help prevent religious discrimination against those who do not share the institution’s religious views.”

Marta Schaaf, co-chair of BKForge: Brooklyn for Reproductive and Gender Equity

“As activists for reproductive and gender equity, we observe the likely end of Roe and onslaught of state-level laws attacking gender-affirming care with anger and sadness. The legislature must act now to ensure that New Yorkers have the information they need to access such vital health care. The ‘hospital transparency law’ is essential to patients’ right to information and to public health efforts to assess health care deserts.”

Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal & Policy at American Atheists

“Personal beliefs have been invoked in countless ways to deny patients needed health care. It is unethical and dangerous for hospitals to hide the fact that patients’ care is governed by religious or other bureaucratic directives rather than applicable medical standards. In order for patients to have a true choice in health care, hospitals must disclose when they would deny care for nonmedical reasons. The health care transparency guaranteed by this bill is an essential right of every New Yorker.”  

Priya Walia, Counsel for Reproductive Rights and Health, National Women’s Law Center

“Every day, we work to ensure that all people throughout our nation have access to safe, medically appropriate, and evidenced-based care, and the ability to control their reproductive decisions and lives,” said Priya Walia, Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. “Refusals of care prioritize personal beliefs over patient care and put New Yorkers at risk of receiving inadequate healthcare. This bill is a step in the right direction by helping patients learn about which healthcare entities forbid their medical staff from providing appropriate and individualized care.”

Arthur Butler, Executive Director of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission and co-chair of the Schenectady Coalition for Healthcare Access  

“The Healthcare Transparency Act helps to move the conversation from the private boardrooms to the streets. The current atmosphere provided communities a birds eye view into the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of our healthcare systems and those who run them. This bill would empower community members with the necessary mechanisms to assess whether their needs are being met by their local hospitals.  Bill A.6334/S.5400 will provide New Yorkers an opportunity to hold local hospitals accountable for meeting the needs of its communities. Health is not a commodity, it is a right. The human rights of the patient are fundamental to enjoying a life of dignity. Universal health care is crucial should always include those most marginalized.”

Georgana Hanson, interim President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts

“Consumers and patients are often unaware that their hospital may not provide, or may deny, certain types of medical care based on factors that are not rooted in public health or the best interests of the patient. At Planned Parenthood, we know that the delivery of patient-centered care means that patients are informed of their rights, options, and have the ability to make decisions in consultation with their providers. Greater consumer transparency in our hospital systems is critical as New Yorkers continue to navigate a pandemic, and an upending of reproductive rights and access to abortion care across the country. We should all have the right to know whether or not the care we need is available at the hospital nearby, and our communities deserve to know the impact of any disparities in care availability.”