By Lindsay Armstrong
Special to DNAinfo New York
UPPER EAST SIDE — Medical patients better have deep pockets when they visit celeb-friendly Lenox Hill Hospital, which was named in a new study as New York’s least affordable hospital.
A company that analyzes health care data, Nerd Wallet, compared the costs of the 100 most common procedures at New York State’s 50 largest hospitals to determine affordability. Along with Lenox Hill, NYU Langone Medical Center in Midtown and Montefiore Hospital in The Bronx also made the least-affordable list.
The report said Lenox Hill, a favorite of Jay-Z and Beyonce, was least affordable for patients seeking treatment for Parkinson's disease, pneumonia and respiratory failure, with an overal patient satisfaction rate of 70 percent.
The firm that conducted the study acknowledged that it analyzed the hospital's initial charges to the consumer, prior to any reimbursement by insurance companies, leading Lenox Hill to question its methodology.
“Charges have no actual impact on the consumer,” Terry Lynam, a spokesperson for North Shore-LIJ, Lenox Hill’s parent company, said of the study, which relied on Medicare reimbursement charge data in its findings.
Because insurance companies negotiate reimbursement with hospitals, the actual cost to the patient is usually considerably lower than the initial charge, Lynam explained. This is also true for patients who are insured through government programs such as Medicare, which sets the reimbursement amount regardless of the charge, he noted.
In addition, Lynam said that all North Shore-LIJ hospitals use a sliding scale to determine how much uninsured and underinsured patients pay for care. He argued that a more accurate measure, like looking at reimbursement rates, would show little difference in actual cost to the patient from hospital to hospital.
“A consumer who walks into Lenox Hill, whether insured or uninsured, is not going to pay more than someone who goes to New York Presbyterian” for the same treatment, he said.
Napala Pratini, a Nerd Wallet analyst, admitted that initial charges could be very different than actual costs to the consumer. However, because reimbursement rates vary so greatly, the analysts determined that hospital charges were a good indication of affordability.
“It’s a very comprehensive national data set,” Pratini said. “These are the real numbers that hospitals charge. If hospitals chose to make their charges for uninsured patients available, we would use that instead."
Pratini said that transparency when it comes to health care costs represents the larger issue.
“We’re trying to press this issue and have people realize that even if they are paying a lower cost through their insurance companies, hospitals should still be answerable for what they are billing.”
Lenox Hill has made headlines in the past for the luxury services offered to celebrity patients, including Jay-Z and Beyonce, who gave birth to their daughter there.
However, Lynam said that image is out of step with the reality of the hospital.
“Lenox Hill provides care to anyone and everyone,” he said. “This notion that it’s a boutique hospital that caters to the wealthy is just not accurate. If you come into our emergency room, you get a sense of that.”