Mitchell Katz, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer
NYC HEALTH + HOSPITALS
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Good afternoon Chairperson Rivera and members of the Committee on Hospital Systems. I am Mitch Katz, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of the NYC Health + Hospitals (“Health + Hospitals”).
This is my first City Council hearing and I am so honored to be here before you. I am a Brooklyn boy, a product of the New York City public school system. Growing up my family received their care at Coney Island Hospital and Kings County Hospital, and so I know how critical public hospitals are to the well-being of families and their communities.
At heart, I am a primary care doctor. I will begin my New York City medical practice as an outpatient doctor at our community health center on the Lower East Side, NYC Health + Hospitals/Gouverneur, as my New York State license came through last week and I have submitted my application for privileges. I will work as an inpatient doctor at all of our hospitals on a rotating basis. I love public hospitals and clinics and the people who work in them and the patients who come to them.
I can assure the committee members that Health + Hospitals is filled with mission driven doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacist and other professionals. The quality of medical and nursing care provided at Health + Hospitals is excellent, and above the community standard. Every day our hospitals save the lives of critically ill patients in our emergency rooms, intensive care units, and hospital units. However, our system suffers from several serious problems related to access if you are not critically ill. And these access problems compound our financial problems because they discourage paying patients from seeking our care. I was charged by the Mayor to take the work on transformation to another level – to turbocharge it – in order to ensure long term stability and quality. I want to work with this Council and the Mayor to make the “system” as good as the people working in it.
To date, Health + Hospitals has been successful in reducing expenses and increasing revenue in order to lessen the budget gap. For example, through our work to standardize purchases and get the best price we can for products, we have saved more than $106 million over the past two fiscal years. By improving our billing and revenue collection processes, we have garnered more than $107 million in the last fiscal year. Most prominently, Health + Hospitals has managed personnel expenses closely over the past three fiscal years for savings estimated at more than $400 million. This is progress but more needs to be done.
My three top priorities are: invigorate and expand primary care, improve access to needed specialty care, and bring fiscal solvency to Health + Hospitals. By focusing
on all three, we will better address community health needs, improve the patient experience and maximize opportunities for new revenue. I am certain we can achieve these three goals.
A large body of evidence demonstrates that longitudinal care provides higher quality care at lower costs. Every clinician can tell you why. When you know patients over time, you know their preferences; you know how they respond to illness; you understand their social situation. And longitudinal relationships facilitate the healing role of therapeutic relationships. And you don’t have to be a doctor to make a difference. One of the most therapeutic relationships I ever saw develop was between a middle-aged female receptionist in a San Francisco AIDS clinic and a frightened young man who came there for treatment.
We need to connect every patient in our system who has a chronic disease to a primary care provider. We need to expand primary care teams throughout our systems, including case managers, pharmacists, and community health workers to improve access, quality, and patient satisfaction. We will use the tools of population health management to ensure we are reaching all who need us.
We must also move swiftly to improve specialty care by shortening wait times. We will do this through an expanded electronic consultation system. This effort is underway now in 28 clinics at 4 facilities. Electronic consults enable primary care doctors to consult with specialists about the needs of their patients. They result in decreased wait times and more efficient specialty visits. We must also continue our work on our Call Center operations for scheduling our patients and directing them to the appropriate facility. When we expand our primary care capacity and have a robust electronic consultation system in place we will be able to successfully increase enrollment from insured persons, which will improve our revenues.
Our health plan, MetroPlus is a valuable asset for us. It provides us an important opportunity to enroll and provide care to new patients. Overall membership, as well as membership in the MetroPlus plan for city employees, has grown in recent months. While this is positive news, growth is only part of the equation. For MetroPlus to realize its potential, we need to improve access to care so that MetroPlus members can receive their care at Health + Hospitals facilities to the greatest extent possible.
As the Council knows from our budget hearings, our financial situation is precarious. As the City’s largest single provider of care to uninsured patients, approximately
415,000 last year, we will always need help from the City of New York to support the care of the uninsured. But that amount must be predictable and defensible as an appropriate subsidy for care provided.
Similarly, we will need continued support from the federal government to pay for care provided to our uninsured patients. Earlier this month, Congress delayed implementation of cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding for two years. This was a very welcome reprieve – albeit temporary – and I want to thank the members of New York’s Congressional delegation and all of our elected officials who worked on this issue. This was an important victory for hospitals who see large numbers of uninsured patients. Moving forward though, it is important to remember that these cuts were not eliminated. Rather, Congress pushed the cuts out into the future and expanded the cuts dramatically to pay for the two-year delay. This remains a significant risk for Health + Hospitals.
As I think about the path forward for this system, I am a big believer in the adage of the nuns that created many safety net systems: there is no mission without a margin. For Health + Hospitals to be viable and to provide the services our community needs, we must take the following seven actions:
If we succeed, with the help of this Council, the Mayor, our organized labor partners, and the incredibly dedicated staff of Health + Hospitals, in fulfilling these seven entirely achievable goals, I believe we will be able to markedly resolve our financial issues. We will still face challenges from federal policy around DSH and we will continue to face unique costs of caring for our patient population, but I am confident that the system will be in a much stronger position.