New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during a visit with...

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during a visit with the Newsday Editorial Board in Melville. (May 16, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is using the Internet to hold the feet of Medicaid providers to the fiscal fire.

One of the hallmarks of this year's budget was the governor's plan to greatly reduce Medicaid spending through the work of a redesign team that included representatives of the state's health care industry, labor leaders, advocates and lawmakers. They were ultimately assigned to find $2.3 billion in Medicaid savings and limit the state share of the program to $15.1 billion.

If the redesign team's recommendations don't work, Cuomo's Health Commissioner Nirav Shah can make many of the cuts himself.

The public will be able to track how the cost-containment efforts are going through a yet-to-be-named web page, said Budget Director Robert Megna. Scheduled to launch soon, the site will show how much Medicaid money has been spent.

"It will be a model for other states," Megna said during a talk Thursday at the Rockefeller Institute. He said the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is looking at the concept for use nationwide.

Megna later described the site as a "real-time estimate" of how the savings initiatives are working out.

Included in the cost savings are a push to bring more Medicaid recipients into managed care programs and connect them with "medical homes" -- or providers who can coordinate the health care they get -- and limits on spending for services such as home health care.

The state's Medicaid program, which provides health care for the poor, was on track to exceed $53 billion a year. It is financed with federal, state and local funds. Combined with school aid, which is being addressed in part through a proposed tax cap, Medicaid has been the state's fastest-growing budget item for several years.

By tracking expenses on a monthly basis, Megna said, officials hope to get a picture of the effectiveness of the cost controls. "We're not going to wait until the end of the year," he said.

Long-term, the idea is to keep the state's Medicaid spending at the Consumer Price Index's health care cost indicators. That means increases shouldn't exceed 4 percent annually.

Health expenses can include items ranging from prescription drugs and hospital bills to the cost of running community health centers.

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