North Fork hospitals facing major state cuts

02/09/2011 1:57 PM |

There’s no joy these days at area hospitals, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget message spells more bad news for a system that has sustained major cutbacks in recent years.

“From what we can see, the cuts appear to be much more significant than we had expected,” said Peconic Bay Medical Center president and CEO Andrew Mitchell. PBMC had been prepared to absorb about a 2 percent cut, but is now looking at a 10 to 15 percent rollback in state funding, he said.

It’s a drop in Medicaid reimbursements that will most affect the bottom line for hospitals, Mr. Mitchell said.

“Hospitals are a place of last resort for the uninsured,” he said. Also, hospitals don’t differentiate between those with good private insurance and those who are financially strapped Medicaid patients, he said.

Similarly, Eastern Long Island Hospital president and CEO Paul Connor III said hospitals in New York have been forced to sustain seven years of constant cuts. While the specifics of the governor’s proposal aren’t yet known, it’s apparent that state and federal funding cuts are going to be big.

“We know it’s going to hurt; we just don’t know where or how much,” Mr. Connor said.

“There’s no such thing as a Medicaid nurse,” he said. If he’s forced to cut staff, it will affect all patients, not just those on Medicaid. He also said that one in four New Yorkers is on Medicaid. “That’s a stunning number,” Mr. Connor said.

He expects that one aspect of the ELIH program — behavioral services that include psychiatry and addiction treatment — is expected to sustain major cutbacks.

The Healthcare Association of New York State has proposed a redesign of the Medicaid system. Even if the proposal is eventually implemented, it won’t be in time to offset the pain of anticipated funding cuts, Mr. Connor said.

HANYS estimates that state and federal cutbacks will amount to $15 billion over the next two years for New Yorkers.
“This is the largest cut to health care services in New York’s history,” said HANYS president Daniel Sisto. He expressed doubt that the governor’s Medicaid redesign team can identify reforms to offset such reductions.

“The Medicaid team does not need more health experts; it will require alchemists, not policy wonks or providers, to transform cuts of this magnitude into gold,” Mr. Sisto said. He predicted that the cuts will usher in another round of hospital closings and nursing cutbacks.

“No other sector of state spending has been more disproportionately impacted by repeated cuts than health care,” Mr. Sisto said.

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