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December 6, 2011 News Headlines

Governor and Legislative Leaders Announce Jobs and Economic Growth Plan

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) today announced an agreement on a package of proposals intended to spur economic growth and reduce taxes for middle class residents in New York State. The package includes measures to create jobs through investments in New York’s infrastructure, restructure the tax code to reduce taxes for middle class residents, approve an additional $50 million in relief funds for areas impacted by recent floods, pursue a gaming initiative, and reduce the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) payroll tax for small businesses.

The tax adjustments are expected to raise $1.9 billion a year. The state currently faces a projected next year deficit of about $3.5 billion. 

The package of proposals is pending legislative approval.  An official time for special session has not yet been set, although reports indicate that it could take place as early as tomorrow.  Contact: Sara Rosenberger

Hospitals and Health Systems Risk Possible Medicare Cuts to Fund "Doc Fix"

Hospitals and health systems could potentially be targeted with Medicare cuts to pay for the cost of a temporary Medicare physician fee schedule fix. Congress is expected to address the 28% reduction in Medicare payments to physicians, currently scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2012. The cost of funding a one-year delay in the cut is $26.5 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

HANYS is particularly concerned that inpatient hospital payments (through the imposition of a new “coding offset”) and reimbursement to inpatient rehabilitation hospitals and units, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and the coverage of beneficiary bad debt are vulnerable to reductions.

HANYS supports full and fair reimbursement to physicians, but rejects any efforts to reduce payments to hospitals and health systems to pay for the “doc fix.”

In addition, a number of Medicare “extenders”— policies that have already expired, or are set to expire shortly —are also under consideration.  HANYS supports the extension of these programs, such as the outpatient department “hold harmless” payments for certain rural hospitals. Other extenders that affect hospitals include Section 508 wage index reclassifications, payment for the technical component of physician pathology services furnished to hospital patients, and protection of reasonable cost-based payment for clinical lab tests in small hospitals located in qualified rural areas. A $1.2 billion extension of the temporary lifting of the cap on therapy services furnished in skilled nursing facilities is also among expiring policies.

Taken together, extending these Medicare policies for one year would cost $2 billion. Concerned that congressional committees are considering paying for the extenders through broader cuts to other providers, HANYS and the American Hospital Association are pushing for extensions funded through other means. Contact: Susan Van Meter

Final MRT Phase 2 Meeting on December 13

The final Phase 2 meeting of the Governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) will be Tuesday, December 13, in Albany, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Empire State Plaza, Meeting Rooms 2-4.

The full MRT is expected to vote on recommendations from four of its work groups, covering payment reform and quality measurement, affordable housing, basic benefit review, and workforce flexibility and change of scope of practice. The final recommendations from many of these work groups are available online. The medical malpractice reform work group is not expected to present final recommendations.

At its November 1 meeting, MRT approved the final recommendations from four work groups, covering behavioral health reform, program streamlining and state/local responsibilities, managed long-term care implementation and waiver redesign, and health disparities. The tenth work group, the Health Systems Redesign: Brooklyn Work Group, reported recommendations directly to Commissioner of Health Nirav Shah, M.D., M.P.H.

Recommendations approved by the full MRT will be sent to Governor Cuomo for his consideration as he prepares next year’s state budget.

HANYS and its members serve on the full MRT and its work groups, and have provided input throughout the MRT Phase 2 process. HANYS held a conference call today with its member-driven Health Reform Taskforce to review the recommendations that will be presented at next week’s MRT meeting. Contact: Robin Frank