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Guv health-care cuts to hit boro providers

Contributing to the $1.2 billion cut in health care under Spitzer's budget is the governor's effort to reform Medicaid.Medicaid subsidies would be redirected to institutions whose patients are predominantly Medicaid subscribers under Spitzer's proposal, which estimated that action saving New York $73 million.Although not technically a cut, the governor seeks to freeze Medicaid reimbursement rates to hospitals and nursing homes. The move would save the state $164 million, according to budget documents.The plan also looks at combatting Medicaid fraud by going after residents who subscribe to Medicaid although they can afford to buy into a private health plan. New York currently spends about one-third of its budget on Medicaid, which accounts for $46.5 billion and is easily the most expensive program funded by the state. Eliminating fraud would save New York $104 million, according to Spitzer's budget.Terry Lynam, a spokesman for the North Shore-LIJ health system, estimated Spitzer's budget would cost North Shore-LIJ $40 million."Clearly, it has a major impact on us," Lynam said, citing the Medicaid rate freeze, a partial freeze on managed care plans and reduced funding for residents and fellows. Both North Shore University Hospital and LIJ are teaching hospitals. "A freeze in hospital and nursing home rates will make it impossible for providers to afford the latest medical supplies, equipment, pharmaceuticals and other items for which costs are rising," said 1199 SEIU, the state's health care workers' union, and the Greater New York Hospital Association in a joint statement. Spitzer's health care initiative comes on the heels of the decision by the Berger Commission Ð a state body created by former Gov. George Pataki to look into New York's health care crisis Ð to close some state hospitals and nursing homes, including Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills. It also recommended merging Peninsula Hospital with St. John's Hospital in the Rockaways. Spitzer said he would implement the commission's decision.But the health care industry has not disagreed with Spitzer's budget in whole. There is an initiative to help make health care more affordable for children by raising family income requirements for Child Health Plus from $51,000 to $81,000."We do support the governor's proposal to expand coverage for children," Lynam said, "but we obviously are tremendously concerned that his other proposals will severely impact our ability to deliver care."Pataki proposed in his budgets some of the same health care cuts Spitzer seeks now, but they were eventually turned down during negotiations with the state Legislature.A spokeswoman for New York Hospital Queens said the hospital was reviewing Spitzer's budget and did not yet know exactly how it would affect the institution.Other hospitals contacted, including Jamaica Hospital and the city Health and Hospitals Corporation Ð which oversees Elmhurst Hospital and Queens Hospital Center Ð could not be reached for comment.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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