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Bellone agrees to pact with Hudson River HealthCare

A building that houses Hudson River HealthCare, a

A building that houses Hudson River HealthCare, a nonprofit that runs all eight Suffolk County health centers, is seen on East Main Street in Patchogue. Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone finalized a contract Thursday with Hudson River HealthCare to extend its operation of the county’s eight health centers for the next five years — after changes were made for new fiscal monitoring to reduce the county’s annual subsidy.

Bellone aides delivered the final contract to the county legislature health committee and said they would issue a certificate of necessity to permit a vote on Tuesday.

The contract will reduce the county’s share of cost for the health centers from $13.4 million to $12 million a year. “It’s a good deal for all concerned,” said Dennis Cohen, Bellone’s chief deputy.

A tentative agreement was reached last year and projected savings were included in the county’s 2019 operating budget, adopted in November, but the agreement was never executed.

Republicans said Bellone, facing re-election, was delaying because the pact failed to live up to the promise made when HRH took over that no further subsidies would be needed after the first five-year contract expired.

The agreement comes after Bellone earlier in the week vetoed a legislative resolution directing County Attorney Dennis Brown to forward the contract to lawmakers for a ratification vote. Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said he believes the legislative pressure forced the administration to act. “I’m glad our health system will not be put in jeopardy,” he said.

Cohen said last-minute changes will create a mechanism for a twice-a-year review of HRH operations with an eye toward reducing or eliminating the county’s subsidies to the nonprofit health provider for 80,000 uninsured or underinsured county residents.

He said the provision will scrutinize HRH’s efforts to increase the number of patients using the health centers and enroll them in Medicaid, Medicare or insurance to lower the county’s cost. He added the monitoring provision has no guarantees that subsidies will be cut or eliminated.

Legis. Tom Cilmi, GOP caucus leader, questioned the effectiveness of the contract changes. “Bellone can’t even manage county finances. How can we expect him to monitor Hudson River’s finances?” he said. “It sounds like window dressing to me.”

Anne Kauffman Nolon, HRH chief executive officer said the new contract will “enable us to maintain a high level of quality health care . . . while continuing to save taxpayer dollars.”

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