Thursday, July 21, 2011

Senators trying to prevent cuts to hospitals

The story about the hospital cuts in the Bronx Press was shortened, so I wanted to give you the full version.

But before we get to the story, take time to read this New York Post exclusive about New York's representatives in Congress fighting for the same thing the state Senators are fighting for.

By Brendan McHugh 

Pleading with the U.S. Congress, every Bronx state Senator and a handful in Manhattan have signed a letter calling on their congressional delegation to oppose major cuts to New York’s teaching hospitals.

With deficit reduction negotiations ongoing in Washington D.C, three major hospitals in Manhattan and the Bronx are facing cuts of up to $1.25 billion, including Montefiore Medical Center.

The hospitals could see massive cuts in Medicare funding, with aid reductions of as much as $5.8 billion nationally. Such cuts would disproportionately affect New York City, given that it’s home to three of the top teaching hospitals in the country.

Aside from Montefiore, cuts would also have an impact on New York Presbyterian Hospital, and Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Senators Adriano Espaillat, Bill Perkins, Thomas Duane, Liz Krueger, Gustavo Rivera, Jose Serrano, Jeff Klein, Ruben Diaz Sr. and Ruth Hassell-Thompson signed the letter.

Jump below for the rest of the story.

“Major funding cuts would disproportionately affect poor, urban areas that rely on these institutions for medical care,” the senators wrote. “The cuts would also devastate local economies in places like Northern Manhattan and the Bronx, where these hospitals serve as major employers.”

Espaillat, who represents parts of Riverdale and northern Manhattan, found out about the magnitude of the cuts being discussed in Washington and became extremely concerned for New York’s hospitals. He penned the letter and asked his colleagues in the area to join to garner as much support as possible.

“Sen. Espaillat will continue to work with NY's congressional delegation to fight the cuts and make sure families have access to quality, affordable healthcare,” said Ibrahim Khan, Espaillat’s spokesperson.

Montefiore is the largest source of employment for Bronx residents, with around 70 percent of the 18,000 employees Bronxites.

A nonprofit institution, Montefiore has a budget of about $3 billion.

“Funding to New York’s top hospitals is not a “giveaway” from the federal government,” they wrote. “New York produces 16,000 new doctors each year, greater than every other region in the country.”

Overall, New York could lose $1.25 billion, or 57 percent, of the $2.19 billion a year they currently receive in Medicare subsides for medical education.

Montefiore will lose $100 million a year in revenue under the current deficit reduction plan, which equals about $1 billion over 10 years. The hospital trains 1,200 residents at any one time, turning out 350 to 400 doctors a year. Around 80 percent of its patients are on either Medicare or Medicaid.

“Montefiore has a pipeline of people who train there, enjoy working with the population in the borough, and appreciate the mission and excellence that Montefiore has,” said Dr. Gary Kalkut, senior vice president and chief medical officer. “That would be threatened if we had a cutback.”

Kalkut, who trained at Montefiore, said the hospital has the second biggest resident program in the country and many of those who train there end up staying in the Bronx, but that would be threatened if Montefiore couldn’t provide the same services and expertise as it currently does.

He also pointed out that the proposed cuts are in direct opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act that President Obama signed into law last year.

“That insures more people, so you need more positions,” he said. “Why would you want to have a negative impact on training more positions when you’re trying to get more people primary care.”

Critics of the Medicare payment say it is a hidden subsidy for hospitals’ operating cost, but because such a high number of patients at those hospitals use Medicare, they have grown to depend on the money.

“While no one is arguing against bringing our nation’s fiscal house in order, we cannot do so while damaging the most important medical centers in America,” the senators wrote. “Hospitals such as the aforementioned require funding because they treat an overwhelming number of poor and elderly patients, using advanced, and therefore, expensive, medical technology.”

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