March 2004

Health Care

From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Richard N. Gottfried • Chair, Health Committee

What the experts are saying...

"Two weeks ago the governor reaffirmed his commitment not to raise taxes this year. Today, the executive budget includes a new $200 million annual hospital ‘sick tax’ plus new or higher taxes on nursing homes and home care. Clearly, there is an inconsistency."

Healthcare Association of New York President Daniel Sisto

"Upstate’s hospitals are not able to keep pace with increased labor costs, and the cost of new technology. The governor’s proposed new tax will make it exceedingly difficult for Upstate hospitals to continue to provide quality care."

President of Iroquois Healthcare Alliance Gary J. Fitzgerald

"New York hospitals have had four straight years of bottom line losses. They have the lowest margins of any hospitals in the country and they simply cannot bear a new tax. Similarly, the budget also includes harmful cuts to certain nursing homes that specialize in treating the most complicated patients. These homes – like all nursing homes across the state – are struggling financially and would be devastated by cuts that could compromise their ability to meet the needs of the vulnerable populations they serve."

Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth E. Raske

"You are talking about a Medicaid population that is poor, and to go and eliminate services as if they could pay out of pocket….that’s very troubling."

Greater Upstate Law Project Executive Director Anne Erickson

"It doesn’t appear the savings the governor proposed….will keep up with the growth of the Medicaid mandate. This does not cap the local share."

Dutchess County Executive William Steinhaus

"Working families and senior citizens who have worked hard all their lives deserve quality, affordable nursing home and hospital care. It is poor public policy to tax patients who may be too sick to protest these new taxes themselves. After pledging in his State of the State address not to raise taxes this year, the governor seems to have changed his mind a week later by adding these regressive taxes."

Inter-Lakes Health Moses-Ludington Hospital and Nursing Home President and CEO Mark Kubricky

Governor’s $1.5 billion in cuts and taxes would cripple health care

The governor habitually tries to cut funding to vital health care services, damaging an already frail system and asking New York’s most vulnerable citizens to pay more for poorer care. Once again, the governor is trying to shift the deficit burden onto those who can least afford it. The governor’s budget cuts and taxes health care by nearly $1.5 billion. Our sick and elderly deserve better.

His health care cuts will limit benefits for sick, elderly and disabled New Yorkers. It also threatens jobs – the health care industry is the first or second largest employer in every county in the state; over 34,600 health care workers stand to lose their jobs if the governor’s budget passes.

To make matters worse, after vowing to not raise taxes, the governor proposes implementing a "sick tax" on hospitals, home care agencies, and nursing homes. These facilities and workers are constantly asked to do more with less – and it’s time that they get some relief.

Devastating cuts mean devastated families

Last year the Legislature was successful in fighting off the governor’s drastic $2 billion cut to health care. This year he’s come back with a budget that:

  • cuts Medicaid by over $1.1 billion and contains nearly $1.5 billion in cuts and taxes;
  • includes a "sick tax" on hospitals, nursing homes and home health care agencies – that will cost these providers $429 million;
  • cuts Early Intervention funds by $75 million when fully implemented – hurting the most vulnerable, disabled children;
  • eliminates psychological, dental, hearing and foot care benefits normally covered by Medicaid;
  • lowers the state reimbursement for local public health programs, costing counties $108 million;
  • discontinues nearly $8.4 million in funding for HIV/AIDS services; and
  • discontinues $2.1 million in funding for family planning programs.

Limiting access to affordable health care

Family Health Plus is a crucial program that expands health care coverage to include low-income working families. Yet the governor has proposed eliminating this coverage for individuals who work for a company with more than 50 employees, or who has had health coverage within the last 12 months. These cuts punish the very people the program was designed to help – working families who don’t get health benefits through their employers. He also plans to eliminate the vision and dental benefits normally covered by Family Health Plus. This cut is asking these people to sacrifice too much – the health and well being of their families.

Health care cuts hit seniors hardest

On top of this, the governor’s budget cuts $60 million from EPIC – which would drive pharmacies out of the program and make prescription drugs less available to seniors. The Assembly has worked hard to provide seniors with affordable prescription drugs by expanding the income eligibility levels for EPIC and simplifying the program’s fee structure, but once again, the governor’s budget undermines the Assembly’s progress.

The governor also threatens senior citizen’s long-term care benefits by making it harder for most to qualify. Currently, any assets transferred by a senior citizen before applying for Medicaid count in determining the amount of coverage received for three years after the transfer. The governor wants to extend that period to five years after you apply for benefits, delaying the long-term care many seniors depend on, requiring people of modest means to impoverish themselves, or pressuring family members to assume the heavy financial burden of caring for an elderly relative.

Medicaid proposal offers taxpayers little relief

Local governments have been demanding relief from escalating Medicaid costs – something the Assembly has long supported. The governor has proposed a ten-year takeover of long-term care – saving localities just $24 million this year – less than one percent of their total Medicaid costs.

Still, it is good news that the governor has finally seen the need to ease the Medicaid burden on local taxpayers. In fact, had the governor gone along with the Assembly’s proposals to have the state assume a larger share of Medicaid and the full non-federal share of Family Health Plus, local taxpayers would have saved nearly $1 billion since 1995.

The Assembly continues to fight for quality, affordable health care

When it comes to our health, and the health of our loved ones — the Assembly will make the right choices that provide the care our families need.

The Assembly Majority has consistently worked to improve health care for all families in New York and we’ll continue the fight to ensure the governor’s budget is not balanced on the backs of New York’s most vulnerable citizens.

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