For the third time in three years, health-care interests are airing TV ads favorable to Governor Cuomo in the thick of high-stakes negotiations over Medicaid funding.

The latest ad, seen Thursday evening on Albany’s WTEN, portrays Cuomo as defending the state from President Trump’s efforts to reduce health-care funding.

The 30-second spot, embedded below, is sponsored by the Healthcare Education Project, which jointly represents the health-care labor union 1199 SEIU and the Greater New York Hospital Association, two of Albany’s most influential lobbying organizations.

“First Trump tried to cut $5 billion,” the voiceover says. “Then he tried to gut coverage for pre-existing conditions. Now Trump wants billions more in health care cuts just when we need it most.”

The spot then cuts to a segment from a recent press conference by Cuomo: “There has to be a place where you don’t play politics,” the governor says. “It has to end somewhere. And it should end at health care.”

The 30-second spot ends by asking viewers to “tell Trump to defend our care.”

The ad focuses on various attempts by the Trump administration to reduce funding for Medicaid or overturn the Affordable Care Act, which are mostly going nowhere in Congress or awaiting action in the courts.

It makes no mention of the most immediate concern for New York’s health-care industry, which is a $2.5 billion imbalance in the Medicaid budget primarily caused by the state’s own policies. Seeking to put the brakes on the program’s rapid spending growth, Cuomo has proposed to close the gap by reducing next year’s state Medicaid spending by $2.5 billion, or about 10 percent.

Previous governors who sought to rein in Medicaid costs often faced attack ads from the Healthcare Education Project. The group has taken a different tack with Cuomo.

It has sometimes pushed back against his proposals, but to date has avoided criticizing him by name. Instead, it portrays Trump and Republicans in Congress as the major threat to New York’s health-care funding, and Cuomo as the state’s chief defender.

The strategy seems to have worked. In early 2018, the group launched an ad campaign boosting a proposal from Cuomo to create a health care “shortfall” fund as a hedge against potential cuts by Washington. Those cuts did not materialize. Cuomo later used the resulting pool of money – which was renamed the Health Care Transformation Fund – to finance Medicaid rate hikes for hospitals and nursing homes, giving special attention to institutions that employ 1199 members.

In late March 2019, the Healthcare Education Project again lauded Cuomo for protecting New York from threats by Trump – even though the president’s proposals had no chance of passing after Democrats took over the House of Representatives. 

At the time, unbeknownst to the public, Medicaid spending was running $1.7 billion over budget, a deficit that had not been revealed to the public. Yet Cuomo dropped a set of cost-cutting measures and resorted to delaying a month’s worth of Medicaid payments from one fiscal year to another, spawning the deficit that he and the Legislature are now faced with closing.

The group sponsoring the ads got a boost from a July 2018 contract settlement between 1199 and the League of Voluntary Hospitals, whose membership overlaps with that of GNYHA. That deal authorized transferring up to $145 million in “surplus” funds from the union’s benefit fund to other union purposes, including the Healthcare Education Project.

That contract, in turn, was subsidized with state funds – in the form of the Medicaid rate hike ordered by Cuomo later the same year.

In effect, Cuomo used Medicaid dollars to subsidize a labor contract that financed a lobbying group that’s now paying for ads praising Cuomo – and seeking more Medicaid dollars in the future. It remains to be seen if the strategy works as well this time around.

About the Author

Bill Hammond

As the Empire Center’s senior fellow for health policy, Bill Hammond tracks fast-moving developments in New York’s massive health care industry, with a focus on how decisions made in Albany and Washington affect the well-being of patients, providers, taxpayers and the state’s economy.

Read more by Bill Hammond

You may also like

Remembering the scandal that brought down Health Commissioner Howard Zucker

The resignation of Dr. Howard Zucker as state health commissioner marks the end of a term marred by scandal over his role in managing the coronavirus pandemic. The much-debated compelling nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients, though it origi Read More

After 10 weeks, all but five of the Empire Center’s 63 requests for pandemic data remain unfulfilled

Over the 10 days that Hochul has been in office, there has been no further progress on the Empire Center's record requests. Read More

New York’s health benefits remain the second-costliest in the U.S.

New York's health benefit costs increased faster than the national average in 2020, leaving it with the second-least affordable coverage in the U.S. The state's average total cost f Read More

Another Hochul To-Do: Timely Financial Reporting

The state will spend a record $212 billion in the current 2022 Fiscal Year, under the budget its elected leaders adopted in April. Read More

Can Cuomo still be impeached?

Andrew Cuomo and Donald Trump have more in common than boyhood homes in Queens. Like Trump, Cuomo could still face impeachment and an impeachment trial despite a promise to resign as Governor later this month. Read More

The Gov’s pension

There are several (dozens? hundreds?) of unanswered questions as the fallout from Andrew Cuomo's resignation earlier today continues. Among those are questions related to his pension, some of which can be answered, sort of. Read More

The Health Department’s FOIL Responses Signal an Indefinite Wait for Pandemic Data

The quest for comprehensive data on New York's coronavirus pandemic hit a bureaucratic roadblock this week Read More

A Study of COVID-19 in Nursing Homes Raises Doubt About New York’s Minimum Staffing Law

A newly published study of COVID-19 in nursing homes links larger numbers of employees to higher rates of infection and death for residents – raising fresh doubts about New York's recently enacted "safe staffing" law. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!