State Health Commissioner, Health Care Advocates Applaud Governor's Proposed Budget Reforms to Increase Access To Primary and Preventive Care

Reimbursement Incentives will Encourage Shift from Inpatient Care to Primary Care

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Dec. 19, 2008) - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., joined public health advocates today at the Urban Health Plan's El Nuevo San Juan Health Center in the Bronx and the Ryan/Chelsea-Clinton Community Health Center in Manhattan to support Governor David A. Paterson's proposed Executive Budget reforms that will significantly expand New Yorkers' access to essential primary and preventive care services.

"We have an extraordinary opportunity here to improve New York Medicaid so it helps maintain and improve patient health," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "By paying more to doctors and clinics that provide primary and preventive care, more patients will receive care routinely instead of waiting for a health care crisis that puts them in a hospital."

Commissioner Daines noted that New York State spends more money on Medicaid than any other state and historically has overpaid for hospital inpatient care, but has underpaid for outpatient primary care and other services.

To address this, the current state budget included measures to begin rebalancing New York's health care system in order to become a high-performing, affordable health care system for the 21st century. In 2008, $88 million was shifted to hospitals inpatient clinics, $12.5 million was re-directed to reimburse community health centers and an additional $38 million was utilized for asthma and diabetes education, smoking cessation services, and expanded after-hours access to primary care services.

The Governor's 2009-2010 Executive Budget proposals seek to continue to improve the health of New Yorkers by including a comprehensive $3.5 billion health care savings plan to rein in Medicaid spending and reforming the State's reimbursement system to invest in more effective and cost-efficient primary care settings and incentivize high-quality care.

"The Governor included transition funding in his budget to help hospitals implement new business plans to reflect the growing need for routine outpatient care. Our fiscal crisis demands our best efforts to improve the health care system, and New York has some of the best hospital administrators around. They will weather this crisis and emerge stronger than ever," Commissioner Daines said.

Governor Paterson's proposed budget would shift an additional $92 million into hospital outpatient clinics and another $37.5 million into reimbursement for community health centers.

In addition, the Governor's proposed budget doubles indigent care funding from $55 million to $110 million – increasing the reimbursement rate to community health centers for care they provide to uninsured patients from 35 percent to approximately 55 percent. An additional $282 million is provided for hospital care for indigent patients.

Paloma Hernandez, President and Chief Executive Officer of Urban Health Plan, Inc., said: "Primary care centers play a major role in ensuring that New York's neediest residents receive quality, patient-centered healthcare. We commend Governor Paterson for making this a priority in his budget."

Barbra Minch, President and Chief Executive Officer of the William F. Ryan Community Health Network, said: "Community health centers are at the forefront of delivering essential and high-quality health care to those who need it most, especially in these tough economic times. What some see as a last resort for health care, we see as a first line of defense against illness, disease and other health problems.

"We look forward to working closely with Governor Paterson, Commissioner Daines, and our elected officials on insuring the availability of primary and preventive care services for our medically underserved communities."

Elizabeth Swain, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Health Care Association of New York State, said: "We recognize the hard choices faced by the Governor as he put this budget together. We applaud the effort made in this proposal to protect the State's most vulnerable people. By mission and by mandate, community health centers provide primary care services to more than 250,000 uninsured people yearly plus thousands more who are underinsured.

"The Executive Budget provides critical support for the uninsured by proposing to double the funding for uninsured people at community health centers throughout New York. Right now, funding for the uninsured in primary care settings is grossly inadequate, and will be stretched even further as the economic hardships of the next months unfold.

The budget makes it easier for eligible people to get and keep their health coverage. By expanding access to coverage, the budget takes a significant step in reducing the numbers of uninsured and underinsured people in our state."

Commissioner Daines explained that Medicaid is the largest provider of health insurance in the state, with about 4.1 million enrollees.

"State support of a better primary care system will ripple through all providers and insurers, and will result in higher-quality preventive health care for all New Yorkers," said Commissioner Daines.