2006-11-17 / Editorial/Opinion


A Merger That Could Endanger Our Quality Of Life

Two of the largest health care providers in New York City are seeking permission to merge, a move that could well impact the thousands of Rockaway residents who are active or retired city employees by increasing their health care costs while reducing their ability to seek coverage elsewhere. According to Michael Cardozo, the city's Corporation Counsel, the merger would "create a virtual monopoly in the public service health care sector." Cardozo says that the present system, where city workers can switch between the two giants allows for lower premiums than they would otherwise charge. With that competition gone, he says, the merged entity could significantly raise prices because the next competitors are still more expensive. That would mean not only would the city have to pay more in health care costs, but that individual workers would have to pay more for their additional coverage, such as catastrophic insurance, drug plans and long-term care. "A merger of GHI and HIP would eliminate all competition in the relevant market and would allow that merged entity to exercise its resulting monopoly power by substantially raising its prices without any fear of market restraint," Cardozo said in a prepared release. He added his belief that, should the merger go through, the new company would file for permission from the State Legislature to convert from its present non-profit status to a public company, a move that would increase premiums even higher. For that reason, the city has sued both GHI and HIP under the federal and state anti-trust statues. This controversy is not an academic exercise in health care politics. The merger would impact every local resident who now works for the city, who plans to work for the city or who is retired from a city job. Absolute statistics on how many active and retired city workers live in Rockaway are not available, but a community board officials believes that their may well be that upwards of 35 percent of Rockaway families have one member or more working for the city. The time to get proactive on this merger is now. Contact your state legislators and let them know how you feel. Your very future quality of life might depend on it.

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