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Cuomo Plans Medicaid Cuts and Targets Long Term Care

Shirlene Cooper in her apartment in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

EMILY PISACRETA, HOST: Governor Andrew Cuomo recently released the 2021 state budget, and it includes a 6 billion dollar deficit. The majority of the deficit, just over 4 billion, comes from unexpected increases in spending for Medicaid, and the governor has tasked a government panel with finding cuts in the health care program. But many low-income New York City residents rely on Medicaid for essential long-term care. Lucas Brady Woods reports.

LUCAS BRADY WOODS, BYLINE: Shirlene Cooper lives alone in an apartment in Flatbush. On Wednesday, she had a fragrant curry chicken simmering on the stove. The living room was clean but cluttered with medication bottles and packaging.

SHIRLENE COOPER: This is Prezista which is part of my HIV/AIDS care. The skin cancer that I have - this is the dexamethasone. So all these is the basic medications that I take.

WOODS: Cooper has been living with AIDS for 25 years. She also suffers from multiple forms of cancer. She says her Medicaid coverage is essential.

COOPER: I need the assistance of the home health aide. I need the assistance of my infectious disease specialist and I need my medications. These medications have to be taken religiously, every day, or I will become resistant and I will die of AIDS.

WOODS: Cooper is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of other New Yorkers also rely on Medicaid for their long-term care. It’s a major driving factor in the rising healthcare costs up for the state. Governor Cuomo has flagged long-term care as a target for cuts. To find those cuts, he’s asking the state’s Medicaid Redesign Team to find $2.5 billion in savings from Medicaid. Here’s Governor Cuomo speaking about the team in his annual Budget Address earlier this month:

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: Here are their mandate: zero impact on local governments, zero impact on beneficiaries. Find industry efficiencies and/or additional industry revenue, root out waste, fraud, and abuse, and get this done in time for the April 1 budget.

WOODS: Michael Sparer is the chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He says it’s not immediately clear how to make substantial cuts to Medicaid while preserving needed care.

MICHAEL SPARER: The state is struggling right now. The state is struggling to figure out how do you simultaneously cut costs, while at the same time ensuring that a needy and vulnerable population receives the care and services that they need and that's a that's a complicated process to do all those things at once.

WOODS: Sparer says the root of the problem is that the United States has an inefficient and inadequate long term care system.

SPARER: Until we develop a really effective system that provides needed health and social services to elderly and disabled populations, we’re going to be dealing with these issues.

WOODS: After the Medicaid Redesign Team releases their recommendations, the budget enters the implementation phase, when the Governor begins to distribute funds across the state. We reached out to Governor Cuomo’s office for more specifics on the plan, but they declined to comment. Lucas Brady Woods, Columbia Radio News.


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