Magnarelli: State Budget Protects Nursing Homes and Hospitals

April 6, 2006
The Legislature’s bipartisan budget protects New York’s most vulnerable populations by funding critical nursing home, hospital and emergency care. The Assembly and Senate restore over $1 billion of the governor’s $1.3 billion in health care cuts, including new health care spending and additions to Medicaid and other vital health programs.

Our budget fully restored $5.4 million to hospitals in Onondaga County, which the governor cut in his budget proposal. His budget plan cut: $318,000 from Community General Hospital; more than $1 million at Crouse Hospital; $928,000 from St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center; and nearly $3 million to SUNY Upstate Medical University. The Legislature’s budget also raises the reimbursement cap for emergency room services from $95 to $150 – a step that will help struggling hospitals in Central New York and throughout the state recoup some of their losses.

The Assembly and Senate rejected the governor’s eight-fold increase in Family Health Plus co-payments for non-emergency visits to emergency rooms and the $6.4 million cut for nursing homes in the 120th Assembly District. We also changed the Medicaid reimbursement formula and provided special grants for nursing homes – like the financially troubled Van Duyn Home and Hospital – supplying a much-needed financial boost to a struggling industry.

Over three years, this will mean an additional $16.1 million for nursing homes in the Syracuse area, including over $6.3 million for the county-owned Van Duyn Home and Hospital, over $2 million for James Square Health and Rehab Centre, and over $1.7 million for St. Camillus Residential Health Care Facility.

But aid to nursing homes is only a piece of the health care puzzle. Our budget provides affordable prescription drugs to those who need them. Last year, the governor promised to provide Medicaid wraparound prescription drug coverage for the 600,000 dual Medicaid/Medicare eligible patients for any drug not covered under Medicare Part D. He reneged on this promise and attempted to end this benefit on June 30, 2006.

Our budget continues the successful Medicaid wraparound coverage until Jan. 14, 2007, provides $2 million for a Medicare Part D advocacy, outreach and enforcement initiative, and takes the lead in ensuring seniors and the disabled get prescription drug coverage – in spite of the president’s Medicare Part D fiasco. As a result of our efforts, the state has already covered millions in emergency funding to pay for medicine the federal plan was supposed to cover. Our plan also stops the governor’s plans to force low-income seniors into Medicare Part D after July 1, 2006. Instead, we offer an “intelligent random assignment” in a Medicare Part D plan – which provides automatic access without complications. Our provision allows seniors to opt out of Medicare Part D and still retain Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC).

The state has an important obligation to promote and protect the health of all New Yorkers. I encourage the governor to join us in accomplishing this goal by producing a budget that protects access to quality, affordable health care and doing more to make sure families in Central New York and all across this state get the health care they need.