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Group upset by Medicaid proposal

Group upset by Medicaid proposal

Add the health care industry to the growing list of organizations, agencies and others in New York u

Add the health care industry to the growing list of organizations, agencies and others in New York upset with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed executive budget, unveiled Tuesday.

The Healthcare Association of New York State said Cuomo’s proposal to cut Medicaid, one of the largest cost centers in the state’s budget, would amount to approximately $15 billion over two years.

“This is the largest cut to health care services in New York state’s history. Even within the context of our fiscal crisis, the magnitude of these cuts is extreme,” said HANYS President Daniel Sisto.

“If the proposed additional $15 billion in Medicaid reductions over the next two years becomes law, we will see a continuation of hospital and nursing closures, adding to the 30 hospitals and more than 50 nursing homes that have already been shuttered in the last decade,” Sisto said.

HANYS represents more than 550 nonprofit and public hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies and other health care organizations in New York.

HANYS spokesman William Van Slyke said over four years, the Medicaid cuts would total $39 billion. “It is an impossible number. The state’s whole Medicaid program is $52 billion,” he said.

Van Slyke said the cut is so large because the state loses $1 in federal reimbursement for every $1 cut in state Medicaid costs.

HANYS was unable to provide figures in lost revenues for local hospitals or nursing homes under Cuomo’s proposal. “We have been fighting it all day to put it into numbers but can’t,” Van Slyke said.

The reason is that Cuomo’s proposal sets a target to be met by the Governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team. The team is to report back March 1 with ways to save money within the Medicaid program for the 2011-12 fiscal year. HANYS is a member of the team.

Van Slyke said the magnitude of the target makes the work of the redesign team impossible. “It is basically asking the team to choose what communities are going to lose access to health care,” he said.

State legislators representing the region said the governor’s executive proposal represents the start of the budget development process and the Legislature has the final say.

State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, said, “We are looking early at a large document. The devil is in details, and we do not have enough details.”

Farley added, however, that he remains concerned about the well-being of rural and upstate hospitals and he expects the Governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team and the Governor’s Mandate Relief Redesign Team to come up with proposals to reduce state spending.

“If they can reduce some of those mandates, maybe some of these hospitals can function more efficiently,” Farley said.

Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, said he is not surprised by the outcry over the proposed cuts in state spending but believes they are needed.

“You will have all kinds of organizations saying it will be devastating. I know it has been devastating to taxpayers and to businesses in this state for a few years now,” Amedore said. “Government needs to rightsize and spend within its means, and it hasn’t for a few decades. We have to make sure we have a budget that is sustainable and affordable for taxpayers in New York.”

New York’s multi-billion dollar Medicaid program is paid for by state, county and federal taxes. In a majority of the state’s counties, Medicaid costs alone account for more than half of the entire county tax levy. New York spends more than twice the national average on Medicaid on a per capita basis, and spending per enrollee is the second highest in the nation. At the same time, New York ranks 21st out of all states for overall health system quality and ranks last among all states for avoidable hospital use and costs.

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