REMARKS OF THE WESTCHESTER COUNTY ASSOCIATION TO THE NEW YORK STATE BUDGET FORUM (February 18, 2020)

The Westchester County Association (“WCA”) is the leading economic development and business advocacy group serving Westchester County and the Hudson Valley.  The WCA has hundreds of for-profit and not-for-profit members which collectively employ tens-of-thousands of workers.  Moreover, it is our express charter to promote the welfare of Westchester County and all its people.  While there are numerous budget related items that warrant in-depth evaluation, the WCA limits its remarks today to the budget’s implications for the State’s Medicaid program.

 

The WCA’s most active and influential members include numerous local and regional hospital groups, biotech firms, and medical teaching facilities.  Westchester’s hospitals and health systems have an enormous impact on the County economy and the welfare of its residents.  According to the N.Y. State Department of Labor, greater than 70,000 people work in Westchester’s health care industry – easily the largest employer of any sector of our economy.  Moreover, the Healthcare Alliance of New York State places the economic impact of hospitals and health systems in the Northern Metropolitan Area (of which Westchester is the largest single contributor) at greater than $11 billion annually.  This system generates greater than $1.6 billion in taxes each year.  The importance of state and federal funding to this regional sector cannot be overlooked as 71 percent of inpatient discharges and 61 percent of outpatient visits are covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

 

The Governor has identified a $4.1 billion deficit attributed to Medicaid in this year’s budget.  Of this amount, a select Medicaid Redesign Team has been given a short couple of months to find $2.5 billion in programmatic savings.  Since 2011, the last time such a committee issued recommendations, Westchester’s health care providers have abided by a 3 percent cap on Medicaid expenses while simultaneously absorbing significant additional costs associated with new legal mandates on enrollment, wages and long-term care.

 

We await the findings of the Medicaid Redesign Team and we are dedicated to working with our State representatives to ensure that the team’s recommendations do not unduly burden Westchester’s health systems or place patients and others in need at unnecessary risk.

 

We also ask our representatives to safeguard Westchester from a disproportionate share of any Medicaid cuts.  A budget proposal last year concerning reimbursements for indigent care would have placed a heavily unbalanced burden on downstate suburban hospitals such as those in Westchester.   Our hospitals must care for underinsured and uninsured patients just like more urban and rural providers.  We urge our representatives to ensure that Westchester is treated fairly in whatever program cuts are eventually made.