De Blasio cites HTC healthcare plan as a model for New York City

NYHTC — June 11, 2014

In an interview with WNYC, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio commended the New York Hotel Trades Council & Hotel Association Employee Benefits Funds for providing what he called exceptionally efficient and cost-effective care to Hotel Trades Council-represented hotel employes and their families. Mayor de Blasio cited the Fund's “all services under-one-roof" care model, which draws all the necessary care-providers into each of the Funds' health centers, as the secret to the Fund's success. 

The Mayor, who has inherited from his predecessor a long list of expired public sector contracts, predicts that savings accrued through healthcare reform could fund long overdue wage increases and backpay for New York City teachers and other public sector employees. He went on to explain that he’d like to see the City Government “explore the possibility” of setting up a similar health care system for public employees.

Following up on the mayor’s interest, WNYC reporter Brigid Bergin took a tour of The Funds' Harlem Health Center, one of the five Funds-operated healthcare facilities around the City. On her tour Bergin stopped to check in with HTC-represented employee Evelyn Fuentes and her daughter Thylia Rivera as the two were leaving the dentist office after a quick half-hour appointment. The interview with Fuentes and her daughter reveals just how efficiently the Harlem Health Center runs. Bergin comments “Participants pay no co-pays or deductibles, have unlimited access to primary care  services, can see specialists and dentists all at the same location and even pick up their prescriptions – filled by a pharmacy robot named “Mookie,” often within an hour of  an appointment.”

Bergin notes that the Funds' Health Centers also cut costs in a number of other ways. First, because doctors at the Health Centers are salaried employees rather than “independent contractors,” their incentive is to provide quality and preventative care rather than drive up costs to patients and their private insurance companies in order to collect bigger profits. Second, by eliminating external, private insurance providers, the system saves patients and employers the costs and constraints on care associated with private health insurance companies.

De Blasio isn’t the first political figure to pay tribute to the Funds' healthcare model. Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn personally visited the Harlem Health Center in 2012.  Quinn, like de Blasio, recognized that the city government had much to learn from the simplicity and efficiency of the Union’s clinic model, even joking “I might have to get myself a side job to get better health care than I get from the city.”

The Union’s healthcare model was also praised alongside its organizing model by The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner in a 2011 exposé. Kuttner said of the Fund's health care that it “may well be the best in the nation at providing so much coverage while effectively constraining costs,” and cited the Funds' clinics’ 93 percent patient satisfaction rate (compared to the typical New York HMO rate of 65 percent). 

Looks like word’s gotten out.

Read more about de Blasio and Quinn’s praise of the HTC healthcare system or listen to WNYC radio coverage of the Hotel Trades Council clinic experience by clicking the links below:

Brigid Bergin. Health Care Lessons from the Hotel Union. WNYC. May 8, 2014.

Brigid Bergin. This Week in Politics: One-on-One with the Mayor. WNYC. April 12, 2014.

Dana Rubinstein. Quinn tours a union health clinic that she hopes will be a model for freelancer care. Capital New York. March 6, 2012.

Robert Kuttner. A Model of Health. The American Prospect. November 7, 2011.