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Cuomo picks Bellone, Dowling for Medicaid cost-cutting team

ALBANY- Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling will serve on the state’s powerful Medicaid Redesign Team to identify $2.5 billion in cuts to the health care system.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appointed the team Tuesday to revamp the health care system that serves the poor and working poor.

Bellone’s voice will be important for counties and their taxpayers after Cuomo said local governments need to better manage the state-and-federal Medicaid programs. Cuomo said local governments need to have “skin in the game,” which many local officials fear means taking on added costs of Medicaid from decisions made in Albany.

“I look forward to having a seat at the table on behalf of local governments to develop solutions to address Medicaid concerns,” Bellone said.

The cuts are needed because Medicaid spending drove a $6.1 billion deficit in the state budget. Cuomo appointed the team of experts from government, the health care industry and health care worker unions to trim the most generous and most expensive Medicaid program in the nation.

The Medicaid gap developed after Cuomo and the Legislature adopted several progressive measures to expand health insurance to more New Yorkers and to raise the minimum wage to $15, which increased labor costs for hospitals and nursing homes.

    Cuomo has already pushed $2 billion in Medicaid costs into future fiscal years to allow the state to meet the “global fiscal cap” required by state law to control Medicaid costs. On Tuesday, Cuomo said the team’s charge includes “whether any changes to the metric for calculating the Medicaid global cap are necessary.”

    The team is scheduled to report its recommendations in March. The team’s first public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at a site not yet determined. More public hearings are expected. Recommendations and proposals can be submitted online beginning Tuesday.

    Legislators in budget hearings last week complained that Cuomo hadn’t yet appointed the team and said there may be too little time for them to review the cuts before the state budget is due April 1. 

Cost overruns in Medicaid first surfaced in April and again in the fall.

Cuomo appointed some longtime allies from health care and labor including: The CEOs of New York Presbyterian and Erie County Medical Center hospitals; the CEOs of Brooklyn Health, MVP Health Care, Healthfirst, Common Ground Health insurers; Dennis Rivera, the politically powerful former chairman of the Service Employees International Union Healthcare plan, as co-chairman; Mario Cilento, president of the AFL-CIO labor organization; one representative each from Democratic majorities of the Senate and Assembly; and Paul Francis, Cuomo’s deputy secretary for health and human services.

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