Schumer Wants Feds to Reimburse NYC Ebola Costs

New York's senior US Senator is calling for the federal government to reimburse New York City for expenses related to its treatment and contact-tracing of an Ebola patient.

New York’s senior US Senator is calling for the federal government to reimburse New York City for expenses related to its treatment and contact-tracing of an Ebola patient.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer said the city incurred costs of about $20 million when Craig Spencer, MD, came down with Ebola last month. Spencer had been treating Ebola victims in Africa when he apparently contracted the disease. He was treated at Bellevue Hospital and released last week. Meanwhile, the city has kept in daily contact with about 300 people who have been in Ebola-stricken parts of Africa or who were in contact with Spencer before his hospitalization.

Schumer said the city and Bellevue, part of the city’s Health and Hospital’s Corp. (HHC), should be reimbursed for a large percentage of their costs because he said the Ebola outbreak is akin to a natural disaster and the federal government typically picks up much of the recovery costs of natural disasters.

“…The world-class response mounted by New York City and Bellevue HHC was not free, and the bottom line is local communities and local taxpayers should not foot the bill for handling an infectious disease that is a threat to the nation,” he said, in a press release.

Schumer is calling for the creation of an Ebola fund modeled after the federal Tuberculosis Contingency Plan fund, which was created to help communities fight that disease.

He noted that President Obama has already called for $6.1 billion to fight Ebola, though the entire State of New York is only slated to receive $14.6 million, despite the fact that New York City alone has already spent more than that amount.

Schumer’s office said the City of New York has approximately 500 staffers working on Ebola full-time. The hospital had to hire extra staffers to make up for the staffing resources that had to be devoted to Spencer’s care.

Kenneth E. Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, concurred with Schumer about the need for funding. He said the region’s designated Ebola centers have done a good job, “but these preparedness efforts are extremely costly, and there will continue to be significant Ebola costs moving forward.”