Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Chemung County Willing To Be "Guinea Pig"


Whatever gets the job done........andy

Chemung County leaders are volunteering this community to act as a "Guinea Pig" for New York State's pilot programs. That could mean taxpayers save money while testing out the latest cost-cutting ideas of Governor Eliot Spitzer.
Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli sent a letter to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer last week. In it he asks the new Governor is "perhaps Chemung County, with your assistance, can become a demonstration community, for fast track changes and pilot programs that are aimed at cutting government spending.
When Governor Spitzer took office last week he pulled no punches when it came to his desire to cut government spending. Often new ideas to save money are tested out at the local level. Santulli told the Governor he wants those pilot programs to take place right here in Chemung County. That is because despite being from different political parties, Santulli believes the new Governor and Chemung County see eye-to-eye on many of the same things.
"You can't change this state relative to its tax structure until you change what it does, Santulli said. More with less, less government, less duplication, cheaper taxes, that's what made this state great. It's too expensive to do business here."
Santulli cited cost-saving measures like combining county and local highway departments as one example of an experimental program Governor Spitzer would be proud of. That is something that's already in the works here in Chemung County.
Another cost-saving pilot program already in the works will save you millions beginning next year. Its the Medicaid Pilot Program that former New York Governor George Pataki gave the final thumbs up to during his visit to Elmira last month. Now Chemung County leaders say that program should be up and running by this summer.
Thanks to some help from the Big Flats based computer programming company, Salient Corporation, a new computer program will track every penny spent. That way an independent third party manager can identify ways to cut down on wasteful spending. For example, of the 17,000 Chemung County neighbors enrolled in Medicaid, 13,000 average 46 medical visits each year. Santulli's convinced steps can be taken to better streamline the program to save money, and increase care.
Are we sending less people to emergency room? Are there less units of service because we're directing people to the right place? Are people getting generic drugs and not brand name drugs when there's a generic equivalent that works? Those are the ways you save money without cutting benefits," Santulli said.
The five-year pilot program could save Chemung County taxpayers as much as $8 to $10 million annually. If it proves to be a success the state could adopt it at anytime. Estimates show that the state could save more than $4 billion annually and possibly lower your taxes.
Santulli said the program is still waiting to cut through some final red tape and a final version of the software before moving forward. Then, about a dozen local doctors, nurses, and case workers will be hired to implement the program working out of an office somewhere in Chemung County.

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