Westchester Medical Center Nixes Obamacare Plans

VALHALLA, N.Y. -

A hospital used extensively by Jewish summer camps and by Rockland County’s Jewish community announced Monday they will not be accepting insurance purchased through the state health exchange in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.

Westchester Medical Center CEO Michael Israel says the reimbursements are too low to cover the costs of the services it offers as a teaching hospital, reported the Journal News.

“We want to participate,” Israel said. “We have not been offered rates that we can live with.”

Westchester’s unparalleled trauma center has unfortunately come into frequent use for camps during the summer months. This past summer, there were nearly half a dozen high-profile incidents where campers who nearly drowned while swimming were brought to that hospital, saving their lives.

Dovid Pilchick, the administrator of Camp Karlin Stolin in Highland, N.Y., which choppered in a camper to Westchester this past summer, said that this decision would be “terrible” for people who purchased insurance and are then denied care.

“Westchester has the only level-1 trauma center in the lower Hudson Valley,” he said. “Every camp and bungalow colony in the Catskills sends there for trauma.”

A Democratic lawmaker who was involved in promoting the exchange expressed anger at the decision not to accept the exchange’s insurance customers, which are mandated under the federal Obamacare act.

“I find it hard to accept that they are not taking any of the plans given their size and the amount of government support they have had over the years,” said Legislator Lyndon Williams of Mount Vernon. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Westchester Medical Center used to be a public hospital. After years of red ink, 15 years ago it became a public benefit corporation. But it still uses public land and buildings, and its employees are part of the state pension system.

Montefiore Medical Center, which has a teaching hospital in the Bronx, is accepting six out of the seven exchange plans available in Westchester County.

After initially rejecting the state exchanges, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center said in October it is accepting two plans available in Westchester and Rockland.

Good Samaritan Hospital, for example, owns Rockland Pulmonary, a 25-provider group that is the largest medical practice in Rockland and the primary hospital used by the county’s sizable Jewish community. They are participating in seven of the eight plans available to Rockland residents.

Most other hospitals in the state are using the vast majority of insurances available on the exchange, which was set up
by Gov. Andrew Cuomo independent of the federal healthcare.gov site.

About 330,000 people have completed the onerous job of signing up for an account on New York state’s exchange, although no numbers have been released as to how many have selected an actual plan.