URBAN AGENDA: Giving Patients A Voice in the Health Care Policy Debate

David R. Jones, Esq., President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York | 5/2/2019, midnight
Everyone should have health insurance. We all know this, yet thousands of New Yorkers simply can’t afford it.
David R. Jones Contributed

That’s the plan behind “We the Patients NY” - a consumer-empowerment project CSS announced this week at a healthcare affordability panel moderated by David Sandman, President and CEO, NYSHealth Foundation and featuring some of the city’s top health policy leaders: City Councilman Mark Levine, Health Committee Chair; Dr. Mitch Katz, President and CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals; Rodrigo Sanchez-Camus, Director of Legal Services, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation; and Elisabeth Benjamin, CSS Vice President of Health Initiatives.

The project, supported by a grant from NYSHealth Foundation, will elevate patients’ voices in the policy conversation by creating a digital space for them to dialogue with others who may be facing the same problems or have the same concerns; promoting the sharing of narratives on how the health care system failed them; providing tools like petitions to engage lawmakers and mobilize patient advocates; and harnessing the power of consumer dissatisfaction and anger to create change.

The first campaigns to be launched under “We the Patients NY” will focus on unfair medical billing practices and better dental coverage. These are areas where we’ve seen real patient concern. Ultimately, we want to empower patients and equip them with the tools, resources and training on grassroots organizing to go to City Hall and Albany to lead the policy change they want to see.

For too long, the health care industry has put its profit-making interests before patients’ wellbeing. As a result, we have a deeply flawed system that is too expensive, inequitable and confusing to most people. “We the Patients NY” will give patients a seat at the policy table, so that together we can begin advancing reforms to ensure that the health care system serves patients’ interests: that it is safer, fairer and cheaper for the people it is supposed to serve.

David R. Jones, Esq., is President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 170 years. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. The Urban Agenda is available on CSS’s website: www.cssny.org.