LOWER MANHATTAN (PIX11) — Sometimes a medical procedure at one hospital may cost considerably more at another, according to healthcare cost advocates and hospital representatives alike. Because of such differences in prices, new legislation before the New York City Council would create a new Office of Healthcare Accountability or OHA. 

Supporters of the legislation said the OHA would monitor and publicly report healthcare prices at facilities citywide, to help people choose more affordable options. It would also keep healthcare costs down, say supporters, and save money for the city government, which, as the city’s largest employer, spends billions on healthcare. 

However, the hospitals themselves, and even some potential patients, question the need for the OHA to be established. 

Rachel Goodfriend, a new mother, is not among the critics, though. 

“I had a baby less than a year ago,” she said. “Then, I had to go back to the E.R., which the insurance company did not want to pay.”

She said that for both the childbirth and the follow-up procedure, she was surprised at the overall costs.

Concerns like hers are behind the OHA bill, which currently has 44 of the 51 council members, a supermajority, signed on.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Councilmember Julie Menin, is the former consumer affairs commissioner for the city. In an interview, she explained why this change is so important.

“You might be charged $55,000 at Montefiore [Medical Center] for a C-section, or $17,000 at another hospital, for the exact same procedure,” Menin said.  

“A routine colonoscopy may cost you $10,000 at one hospital, $2,000 at another. I could go on,” she said. “At your most vulnerable time, when you’re in the hospital, you have no idea what you’re about to be charged.” 

Menin said that the OHA would hold save the city some $2 billion by making healthcare costs more transparent. She said that there’s a need for savings. According to her office, as well as figures from District Council 37, the largest union for city workers, health insurance costs for city employees and their families have risen from $1.6 billion in 2000 to $6.3 billion in 2017. They said that that figure is expected to rise to $11 billion this year. 

The proposed new office would monitor and publish costs for medical services at each different hospital in the city, to help potential patients pick and choose. 

Jocess Franciosa, a local grandmother who described herself as a working professional with health insurance, said that she’s astonished by how much she ends up having to pay out of her own pocket for her medical needs. She said that an OHA is an idea she supports. 

“That’s something that should’ve been done a long time ago,” she told PIX11 News. “It’s outrageous, actually.” 

Leaders of the legislation held a City Council hearing at City Hall on Thursday morning, following a rally. 

In testimony, leaders of some city agencies that deal with health insurance and health issues for employees indicated that they favor the legislation. Labor leaders who testified expressed similar support. 

However, David Rich, a senior representative of the city’s hospitals, testified that the oversight that the OHA could have might conflict with federal oversight of hospitals, which he said, is already strong. 

“[It] could tarnish the reputation of a hospital where the federal government has said, ‘Yes, you are complying with our rules,'” he said in an interview after his City Council testimony. 

Also, at least one person who spoke with PIX11 News said that he was concerned that the proposed new legislation that would create an OHA might reduce competition for healthcare. That, said James Koroma, could raise medical costs even more. 

“So that I don’t agree with,” he said. 

With a supermajority of the council in support of the legislation, as well as the administration of Mayor Eric Adams, the OHA measure is likely to pass. A full council vote on the measure is expected soon.