Political Expediency May Cost Nursing Homes Significant Funds

Legislative column from Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua)
February 27, 2009

Recently, the state Legislature, at the urging of Governor David Paterson, enacted a so-called Deficit Reduction Plan (DRP) that looked to close a $1.6 billion deficit in our current state budget. In their mad dash and secret negotiations to get this plan approved, an oversight in the language has resulted in cuts to nursing homes and home-care programs that will directly compromise the quality of care for thousands of patients across the state.

Given little time to examine and scrutinize the impact of these spending cuts, most lawmakers were left in the dark about the full impact of the DRP. Nursing facilities were initially slated to face a reduction of $22 million in state aid, but as we dig deeper, we realize the cut is actually much, much larger – to the tune of more than $81 million. Nursing home organizations are crying foul as these unexpected cuts to funding put their facilities in the position of losing federal matching funds. That’s a significant difference and the fallout could be catastrophic.

I, along with the Homes and Services for the Aging, am calling on the Governor and other members of the state Legislature to reconsider this significant cut in state aid during 2009-2010 budget negotiations. Nursing homes care for about 115,000 people statewide and the ramifications of these cuts could mean thousands of layoffs directly impacting patient care.

Everyone must learn to do more with less; we get that. However, the last thing we want to do is eliminate jobs and compromise patient care. Spending needs to be reined in, but it cannot be haphazardly and instantaneously. With Medicaid fraud and abuse costing taxpayers more than $4 billion a year, the state can find a way to reduce the damage of this unexpected cut to nursing homes.

Had the so-called deficit reduction plan been vetted by rank-and-file lawmakers, the process could have yielded a better piece of legislation – one that actually might have helped New York weather this economic crisis. Instead, the bill passed placed political expediency above accuracy while doing absolutely nothing to solve our long-term overall problems of excessive, wasteful spending and skyrocketing taxes.

The only thing we can do now is move forward and fight to correct past mistakes in the 2009-10 state budget. Albany’s old tricks that have driven us to this fiscal crisis, jeopardizing our financial security, denying open decision making and public scrutiny while shifting the burden to overtaxed New Yorkers, have clearly returned. What we need is bold ideas, new leadership and a restructuring of state government; not more of the same. I will continue to advocate for reform that will enable us to weather this economic storm while providing fiscal security to the residents, families, seniors, farms and small businesses so desperately in need.

As always, your input is greatly appreciated and I ask that you contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us.