Saturday, January 27, 2007

Spitzer urges health reform

Newsday ERROL A. COCKFIELD JR

With all the comptroller commotion going on...unfortunately this story sort of got buried......andy

Moving to soften the impact of the budget he will present next week, Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Friday proposed an exhaustive overhaul of the state's health care system that set up a confrontation between his administration, hospitals and labor unions.Spitzer said state lawmakers were pouring billions into a dysfunctional health care network driven by institutional pressures instead of patient needs.During a speech in the capital, Spitzer unveiled an agenda that recommends widespread cuts to providers - mainly hospitals and nursing homes - to free up dollars to expand health coverage to 2.6 million uninsured New Yorkers, including 400,000 children.

"For too long we have financed the health care system we have, not the health care system we need," Spitzer said.One of the prescriptions that met opposition Friday was his proposal to strategically freeze hospital and nursing home reimbursements, cutting off money providers rely on.Arthur Gianelli, president and chief executive of Nassau Healthcare Association, which runs Nassau University Medical Center, said close to 50 percent of the hospital's budget comes from Medicaid reimbursements. "Everyone recognizes Medicaid needs to be reformed, but it's important that any reform recognize the importance of the safety net to health coverage," he said.Spitzer's plan comes as state lawmakers are contemplating hospital closures because of empty beds. Along with his cuts, Spitzer believes a combination of fraud monitoring, improved technology, and expansion of clinic-based rather than institutional care can save enough money to help New York move toward universal health care.

On Friday, Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union and the Greater New York Hospital Association released a statement saying it was foolish to steer money away from hospitals and nursing homes when work force shortages and the possibility of less federal aid exist."It is extremely unwise and dangerous for the state to enact the same old type of funding cuts to hospitals and nursing homes that have been proposed by governors in the past," the statement said.State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), Senate health committee chairman, suggested the governor was painting providers with too broad a brush."He sets up an amazing array of villains," Hannon said. "It can't be that nursing homes and hospitals and long-term-care facilities and health insurers are all doing everything wrong. It makes for good theater but it doesn't make for good medical care."

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