Health care is likely to top the agenda of state and federal lawmakers in the coming weeks, as New York's new governor aims to reform the Medicaid system and Congress considers a measure to repeal last year's health care reform legislation.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has pledged to reduce the costs of the state's Medicaid program while increasing quality and efficiency.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has already taken steps to repeal President Barack Obama's massive health care reform bill.
Here in Saranac Lake, the head of one of the region's largest hospitals says taxpayers and politicians need to take a measured approach to reforming health care on both the state and federal levels.
Chandler Ralph is president and CEO of the Adirondack Medical Center. She says hospital officials are encouraged by the new administration in Albany.
Last week, Cuomo called for government consolidation during his State of the State address. He said bloated state agencies are responsible in part for a budget deficit nearing $11 billion. The state Department of Health, for example, consists of 46 councils, six committees, 17 boards, six institutes, two task forces, and five facilities. That's a lot of red tape for New York hospitals, Ralph says.
"Cuomo really wants to streamline and consolidate government around efficiencies," she said. "We're 100 percent in favor of that - we deal with many of those groups."
Cuomo also wants lawmakers to tackle Medicaid reform. Earlier this week, he used an executive order to establish the Medicaid Redesign Team, tasked with making the state's Medicaid program cheaper, better, and more efficient.
The state currently spends more than $53 billion a year on its Medicaid program, which provides health care to approximately 4.7 million New Yorkers.
The program is funded by the state, as well as through county and federal taxes. It's also one of the largest strains on the state's budget year-in and year-out. A majority of county governments statewide spend at least half of the tax levy on Medicaid.