New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer unveiled a budget proposal that would fund several healthcare initiatives, including an expansion of the state's child health insurance program, in part with $1.2 billion in savings from the healthcare system, most notably from reforming the state Medicaid program. Among other changes, Spitzer proposed reducing annual Medicaid spending growth to 1.7% in the next year from about 8% over the past five years. In total, the healthcare budget generates $1 billion in Medicaid savings and over $220 million in Health Care Reform Act savings, he said. The budget proposal seeks $165 million over two years to expand the states Child Health Plus program to all 400,000 currently uninsured children in New York, and it calls for streamlining enrollment procedures for Medicaid patients. Spitzer said the states Medicaid program is the most expensive in the nation, with too many services provided in institutional settings. The challenges facing reform of the healthcare system are great, but we really dont have a choice, he said.
In a written statement, Daniel Sisto, president of the Healthcare Association of New York State, raised concern over Spitzers proposal to reduce the Medicaid trend factor, an indexed cost-of-living adjustment for hospitals. "The windfalls generated by proposed reductions in healthcare funding would be shifted to sectors of state spending other than healthcare," Sisto said. "Any across-the-board cuts to healthcare funding will get us further from, not closer to, a truly reformed healthcare system." -- by Cinda Becker