Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday he might call the state Legislature back to Albany if the federal government follows through on plans to cut funding for so-called “safety net” hospitals such as Nassau University Medical Center and Stony Brook University Hospital.
Cuomo, a Democrat, noted that as of Oct. 1 federal law calls for a cut in “Disproportionate Share Hospital” (DSH) payments, which go to those facilities that treat the state’s most needy patients. New York would see a $329 million cut in April and up to $2.6 billion by 2025, when state and local shares are combined. Congressional Democrats have expressed optimism that some or all of the cuts might be restored by Dec. 31, but if they aren’t, Cuomo said state lawmakers might have to act.
“If we know the cuts will not be restored by Dec. 31, I’m considering calling a special session to bring the Legislature back,” the governor said. Lawmakers, at minimum, would have to change the distribution formula for the remaining federal aid, he said.
Democrats who control the state Assembly already have scheduled their annual legislative conference in Albany for Dec. 6-8, setting up a possible ready-made opportunity for Cuomo to call a special session – which, if called, could entail other lingering issues, such as congestion pricing for New York City-bound vehicles.
Cuomo also suggested the volume of the cuts could trigger a state budget clause that gives his administration broad powers to make reductions across state government to balance the budget. The Legislature had balked but eventually granted the governor those powers in April.
The cuts to the hospital program had been in place for some years in tandem with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. With Obamacare reducing the number of uninsured people, the federal government planned to reduce payments to the safety-net facilities. But Cuomo said that public hospitals are “stressed already” and cannot withstand the reduction.
About 25 hospitals across New York would be impacted, the governor said.
“We have got to get the cuts rolled back. Period. Or else there is going to be a lot of pain,” Cuomo said. He said KPMG, an auditing firm, has been hired to come up with recommendations for dealing with the potential cuts.