You can call Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of state Medicaid outlays “reckless” — if you want to be kind. Yet this seedy pattern of pay-to-play merits far harsher terms.
As The New York Times reports, the gov OK’d a $140 million-a-year bump in Medicaid reimbursements for hospitals soon after the Greater New York Hospital Association complied with his campaign’s “request” for a “donation” to the state Democratic Party.
“Demand for a bribe” is more like it.
The association had been begging for the increase in reimbursement rates for years. But it got it only after ponying up more than $1 million (twice what it had given any campaign in at least a decade) to a Cuomo-controlled housekeeping account.
The rise in payment rates fed a growing funding shortfall for the state’s Medicaid program. But the gov’s minions hid the budget hole by delaying payments and pushing the $1.7 billion problem into the new fiscal year.
That just lets the problem snowball: The Citizens Budget Commission now warns that New York faces a $7 billion Medicaid shortfall over the next four years, on top of a $12.8 billion budget gap.
“It’s everything that’s wrong with Albany in one ugly deal,” says Empire Center’s Bill Hammond. Cuomo funneled cash “to a major interest group while secretly accepting its campaign cash and papering over a massive deficit.”
Worse, Cuomo’s funding the giveaway for now with $2 billion he demanded for allowing the Catholic Church to sell off its Fidelis health plan. But the higher rates — and the budget holes — won’t go away when that one-shot runs out.
Hammond also notes that the feds are reviewing the Fidelis deal; if they nix it, that opens yet another fat budget hole.
Classic Cuomo: String together dubious on-the-fly moves to mask fundamental problems and dubious policy.
The gov’s folks deny any quid pro quo between the hospitals’ campaign contribution and the rate hike. But this isn’t the first “donation” from a group that winds up with a special Cuomo benefit.
Recall that Crystal Run Healthcare execs gave Cuomo’s campaign $400,000 — and the company got $25 million in state funds for a project it had already begun. The Buffalo Billion projects have seen a long list of fatcat Cuomo donors get juicy state construction contracts.
In that light, “reckless” doesn’t cover the gov’s making of this Medicaid mess. “Corrupt” is more like it.
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