Proposal seeks to end Albany's annual fight over imperiled 'safety net' hospitals

Chris Bragg

March 31, 2023

Originally published in Buffalo News on March 31, 2023.

Since 2008, the State Department of Health has only marginally increased the amount Medicaid reimburses hospitals for services. At the same time, medical costs have spiked by 43 percent, according to data cited by 1199, necessitating the annual one-shot Albany budget injections for safety net hospitals.

For hospitals that qualify as "safety net" institutions, Rivera’s bill would instead peg the state's Medicaid reimbursement rate to the higher average commercial insurance rate paid to hospitals in the same geographic region. (The formula would consider whether a hospital was in New York City or the rest of the state.) Thirteen Senate Democrats are sponsoring the bill, including Tim Kennedy of Buffalo. Proponents believe the model would allow safety net hospitals to engage in longer-term planning, without the shadow of the annual Albany budget fights, and to finally upgrade older, outdated facilities.

“We think it's time for us to end the onetime deals and look for some structural change,” said State Sen. Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn, a co-sponsor of the bill. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘Why is it that hospitals that serve predominantly Black and brown people – and in many instances poor people – remain on the bottom of the priority list for this state?’ ”