A progressive New York lawmaker said Friday that local hospitals are “allegedly saving lives” during a legislative hearing about soaring healthcare costs — drawing an immediate rebuke from critics who noted the thousands of lives saved by them throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These companies – these corporations that we call hospitals – have chosen to make money out of healthcare, have chosen to make money out of allegedly saving lives,” Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Queens) said during public testimony at a City Council oversight hearing on hospital costs.
“And yes, they are saving the lives, but I say allegedly because when you get a $200,000 bill that you have to pay, or when you have to choose between a world renowned doctor at one hospital versus a decent doctor at another one — you’re playing with your healthcare, you’re playing with your life,” Cruz said.
Earlier she’d trashed NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, a leading private hospital network in the Big Apple, calling it a place “where you can have one procedure, be billed in three different ways to three different insurance companies, and we’re talking about a $20 to $30,000 difference.”
David Rich, legislative advocate for the lobbying group the Greater New York Hospital Association, who was also testifying at the hearing, slammed Cruz for the remarks.
“Saying hospitals ‘allegedly save lives’ — in the last 18 months, the hospitals of New York City saved New Yorkers in the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rich fumed.
“They worked 24/7, no other institutions did that; their staff – from administrators to 1199 workers to NYSNA [NY State Nurses Association] workers — sacrificed extremely hard, made sacrifices barely anyone else in the city made to save people from COVID 19.
“And for someone in this hearing – I’m sorry to be so upset about this – to say, ‘Hospitals allegedly save lives?’ They save lives every day. And this pandemic’s not over.
“They have saved thousands and hundreds of thousands of lives, at a great cost — emotional cost, sacrifice, financial cost. The idea they’re making money – hospitals are barely breaking even because of all of the costs during the pandemic,” Rich said.
Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) also took Cruz to task for her comments.
“Mr. Rich I agree with you. The assemblywoman’s unfortunate comments that ‘hospitals allegedly save lives’ is hurtful and disrespectful to the thousands of dedicated men and women who serve every day and night in our hospitals with so many stressful situations. They do save lives, there’s no doubt about it,” Holden said.
At the peak of the state’s coronavirus pandemic, hospitals were treating 18,825 COVID-19 patients.
Cruz did not immediately return a request for comment, but pointed to remarks on Facebook where she said she was “bashing the Hospitals who make $ from our families, who turned healthcare into a $ making biz.”
She added that she’s “been at the forefront of fighting for workers” including lower paid hospital staff and nurses.