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$63 million question

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Nassau University Medical Center is shown in this

Nassau University Medical Center is shown in this undated photo. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Daily Point

NUMC’s unhealthy balance sheet

Newsday reported Tuesday that the Nassau University Medical Center owes $63 million to the state in unpaid employee health care premiums. That’s a lot of money, but not a surprise when you consider the economics of public-mission hospitals, the history of NUMC, and one budgetary move cash-strapped Nassau County made under former County Executive Edward Mangano in 2014.

That was the final year the county made its traditional $13 million mission payment to NUMC to shore up the finances of the 530-bed trauma center in East Meadow.

Had that payment continued, and been remitted for the years 2015 through 2018, the hospital would have had $52 million to work with, and the arrears might not be so large.

Founded in 1935 as a county-owned hospital, the facility, originally called Meadowbrook Hospital, was the financial responsibility of the county until it was converted into a public-benefit corporation in 1997. And like most “safety net” hospitals that serve an area’s most needy patients, its finances are precarious. For instance:

  • More than 50 percent of NUMC’s patients are on Medicaid, which reimburses so little for services that providers lose money on each patient.
  • About 30 percent of NUMC’s patients are on Medicare, which reimburses more than Medicaid but not enough to keep hospitals healthy.
  • Less than 15 percent of NUMC patients have the private insurance on which hospitals can survive, and even thrive.

Nassau County no longer directly controls NUMC nor has the legal responsibility for its finances. But the county chooses its board and leadership, and County Executive Laura Curran will take the political heat if NUMC’s ability to serve residents falters. Soon after being elected, she replaced NUMC’s chairman.

But what will be done about the hospital’s financial struggles? That’s the $63 million question.

Lane Filler

Talking Point

Blast from the past

Sharp-eyed Newsday subscribers who received with their Sunday newspaper a classic edition from May 18, 1983 — the cover of which celebrated the New York Islanders winning their fourth straight Stanley Cup — might also have noticed a story on Page 4 that had more lasting repercussions for the region.

The article noted that tandem tractor-trailers had begun to travel on the Long Island Expressway.

The big rigs were banned at the time by state law, but the Federal Highway Administration decided to allow them on highways nationwide, including the entire length of the LIE, as a sweetener to trucking firms upset about a 5-cent-per-gallon hike in the federal gas tax.

Local officials bemoaned the wear and tear the massive trucks would inflict on the region’s roads, and they were right. Some vowed to pursue the matter in court, saying state and local restrictions should trump federal law. Anyone who drives the LIE nowadays knows how that worked out.

Michael Dobie

Pencil Point

At the pump

Bonus Point

Trump and the scholars

The new class of U.S. Presidential Scholars has been announced, and Long Island’s Jade Carvalho made the list of some of the nation’s top-performing high schoolers.

Carvalho, 17, is a star student at Hauppauge High School whose impressive resume includes an AP Scholar with Distinction Award, being co-captain of the varsity tennis team and a perfect score on the ACT.

In June, she’ll join other new members of the distinguished group of scholars in Washington to receive her Presidential Scholar Medallion. The program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and scholars have attended ceremonies with presidents and first ladies over the years, depending on the White House schedule. Last year, scholars met first lady Melania Trump. A meeting with President Donald Trump is still up in the air because plans for this year’s ceremony have not been finalized, program representatives said.

In a brief conversation while she studied for her AP Physics exam, Carvalho said Sunday she is not sure what she’ll focus on in college but she looks forward to a gap year before starting at Duke University.

She is excited about the national honor, announced last week, and the potential visit with the president. “I think it’s pretty cool to meet a president,” she said.

Mark Chiusano

Columns