Predicting deep and widespread layoffs of healthcare workers, provider groups and union leaders in New York lambasted Gov. George Pataki's plan to make big cuts in Medi-caid spending.
Specifically, the governor aims to reduce budgeted Medicaid spending in fiscal 1996, which starts April 1, by $1.2 billion from the current $5.9 billion Medicaid budget.
The figures include federal Medi-caid matching funds. The state provides about 59% of total Medicaid funding.
The reduction in Medicaid spending is central to the governor's plan to close a $5 billion deficit in fiscal 1996.
"New York state's Medicaid program is the most expensive in the nation" the governor said. "Without cost containment, New York's Medic-aid bill will grow to $6.45 billion, a nearly 10% increase in one year alone." The $6.45 billion doesn't include federal matching funds.
Pataki's fiscal 1996 budget trims $307 million from hospital payments and $243 million from nursing home payments.
However, when matching dollars are figured in, payments could drop by as much as $1.3 billion to hospitals and $554 million to nursing homes, claims the Healthcare Association of New York State.
Members of the New York City Municipal Hospital Workers Union, Local 420, marched last week in protest of the proposed Medicaid cuts.
James Butler, president of the 15,000-member union, said 3,000 healthcare workers have already lost jobs through a severance buyout plan.
"Working people in our communities cannot afford to lose their jobs. Healthcare is the biggest employer in New York City," he said.
The Greater New York Hospital Association is studying the impact of the cuts on providers and the state economy, and expects to report results within three weeks.
Association President Kenneth E. Raske said the reductions are so severe that "tens of thousands" of healthcare workers may lose their jobs.
To prevent the feared devastation from occurring, the hospital association will embark on a grass-roots effort to educate lawmakers in Albany.
"It's going to be the challenge of my career," Raske said.