Cuomo cuts could force nursing home closures

As legislators in Albany continue to parse through Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget, a task force is scrambling to find ways to cut billions of dollars from New York's Medicaid program.

The state is currently facing a budget deficit in excess of $10 billion, and Gov. Cuomo argues that Medicaid accounts for some 25 percent of money spent by Albany.

But officials from hospitals and nursing homes in the North Country say that Cuomo's proposed health care cuts will have far-reaching consequences.

Some experts claim Cuomo's cuts would result in major cutbacks for critical services - others believe the proposed budget could cripple operations at nursing homes.

Chandler Ralph is president and CEO of the Adirondack Medical Center, a health care facility based in Saranac Lake that provides services at facilities across the Tri-Lakes region.

"When his budget came out, he challenged health care to take out $2.86 billion," she said. "Then, he created a Medicaid task force to say, 'okay, come up with the $2.86 billion.' That's their goal. Quite frankly, until we know what they recommend, it's very hard to estimate what the impact might be on our facilities."

Cuomo has called for similar spending decreases at the state Department of Correctional Services. In both instances, the governor has stated a dollar figure he'd like to see cut and left the details to lawmakers and task forces.

State Senator Betty Little has called that a "stealth approach" - one in which the governor scales back spending without providing specifics. Only after the spending plan is enacted would stakeholders have a firm grip on what sort of cuts were actually made.

Ralph says she likes that approach - so long as it remains fair.

"I like the fact that he is challenging the field to come up with ideas on the budget," she said. "If it turns out that the governor is going to ask for a $2.86 billion cut without any details, obviously I agree with Senator Little - I think she's right on. It would be terribly unfair."

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