Cuomo Repeats Call For Medicaid Boost From Feds

ALBANY (AP) -

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that New York needs the Medicaid funding infusion it first requested from the federal government in 2012 to support hospital overhauls and expanded primary medical care to meet growing patient demand under the state’s new health insurance exchange.

Meanwhile, state officials are pursuing a waiver to use up to $2 billion annually from Medicaid over five years to help financially struggling hospitals shift to more primary and outpatient medical care. More primary care will be needed to accommodate the newly insured, projected to top 1 million in three years.

“If we do not get the waiver quickly, there will be a health care crisis in this state and hospitals will close, especially in Brooklyn,” Cuomo told reporters in a conference call, repeating warnings he made two weeks ago. “I’ll also say if we don’t get the waiver it will endanger the operation of our health exchange, because our health exchange is premised on the concept of the transformation of our health care system.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday he has communicated over the past few weeks with White House officials and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the importance of the waiver. He said he was “confident” Sebelius will “conclude her review of New York’s application in the near future.”

Sebelius wrote in a letter Jan. 22 that decisions on the future of particular hospitals should be left to state and local officials and shouldn’t be determined by the waiver, which is meant to improve care and cut Medicaid costs. Her office said two weeks ago that the waiver issue should be resolved within 30 days.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) chairman of the House Oversight Committee, wrote to Sebelius this week that the panel was continuing to scrutinize New York’s Medicaid program, citing a committee report last year that concluded that poor oversight and improper state financing arrangements led to the misspending of tens of billions of dollars over two decades.

Cuomo said the criticisms of the state’s Medicaid practices are from past issues that have been fixed.