After a year and a half of lobbying and public pleading, New York is set to receive $8 billion in federal healthcare funding over the next five years to bolster struggling hospitals and help improve medical services across the state.
The specifics of the agreement between Albany and Washington are still under discussion and have not yet been made public.
“While the State will be reviewing the terms and conditions of this agreement, it is clearly the biggest step forward towards a positive conclusion for our communities, particularly in Brooklyn, that have suffered from diminishing health care services," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in an official statement. "Securing this waiver will address those needs, allowing us to increase access and improve the quality of care for New Yorkers while making New York’s health care system a model for the entire nation."
But as large as the amount is, it's 20 percent less than what the state was hoping for. New York applied for $10 billion, saying it was on track to save state and federal taxpayers $17 billion through reduced spending and program reforms. Since Cuomo took office, one of his top priorities has been "redesigning" Medicaid, by lowering payments to hospitals, doctors and long-term care providers and by forcing people to enter managed care programs.
Cuomo and members of the state's Congressional delegation have campaigned loudly for the funding — known officially as a Medicaid waiver. In his recent Executive Budget address, Cuomo said the waiver was crucial to rescuing several financially troubled Brooklyn hospitals, including Long Island College Hospital, Interfaith Medical Center and Brookdale University Medical Center.
"We are making serious changes in the system, but we need funding to enact those changes that are allowing us to save the money in the first place," Cuomo said. "We have been propping up the system, frankly, for about 18 months, while we have been waiting for the waiver, but we need HHS to act on the waiver now. It is a critical situation, we have no alternatives, the numbers are beyond the scope of the State government, and this is truly a crisis."