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Cuomo vetoes Medicaid, 1812 bills

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My story with Times staff writer Rebecca Madden
Rural hospitals will look for a different path to financial health after a veto from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo closed one avenue.
Mr. Cuomo vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed critical-access hospitals such as Clifton-Fine Hospital, Star Lake, and River Hospital, Alexandria Bay, to receive more money from the Medicaid program.
The bill would have increased reimbursement for outpatient services.
“We lose money on providing those services now,” said Robert P. Kimmes, CEO of Clifton-Fine Hospital.
The veto means that the rural hospitals will have to adjust in other ways, including an increase in the number of services provided and another effort at changing the Medicaid law.
Mr. Cuomo said in a budget message that the measure would have cost the state $3.5 million. In the 2011-12 budget process, the state put a cap on how much it spends yearly on Medicaid, so any increase for critical-access hospitals would have to be made up with cuts in other areas.
A so-called “Medicaid Redesign Team” was part of the effort for the cap. Mr. Cuomo said that changes in funding for rural hospitals could be brought before that group and taken up in future budget deliberations.
Mr. Kimmes, for example, said he would work with officials from the Healthcare Association of New York State to revisit the issue.
River Hospital CEO Ben Moore III said Monday that the hospital will try to make more money by providing more services.
“It’s a disappointment,” Mr. Moore said of the veto. “Obviously, we’ll move forward and certainly it pressures us to develop more activity.”
The hospital will add cardiology services beginning Oct. 4 to help increase those numbers and generate more revenue for the hospital. Mr. Moore said Dr. Fritz Roc, of the New York Heart Center, Route 11, Watertown, will be available for appointment a few days a month at River Hospital.
Adding additional surgical and orthopedic services are also on River Hospital’s to-do list, Mr. Moore said.
The bill’s main sponsor in the Assembly, Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said she understood the rationale behind the veto.
“They understand the strain our critical-access hospitals are under,” Mrs. Russell said. The bill “essentially says that they believe the proper place to have this discussion is during the budget process with the Medicaid Redesign Team. This bill got it on their radar.”
Mrs. Russell didn’t quite understand, though, the veto of another bill, which would have set up a state commission to aid in the planning of celebrations surrounding the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
Mr. Cuomo vetoed that one because of an estimated $350,000 annual price tag on the commission — despite a promise in the bill that included zero “fiscal implications” for the state. That is, it wouldn’t cost anything.
Mrs. Russell said the state Division of the Budget’s interpretation of a part that said the state had to provide certain information to the commission was the reason for the $350,000 cost.
“I found it to be really excessive,” Mrs. Russell said. “That’s three to six people’s salary and benefits. I’m truly disappointed that Division of Budget put such a high fiscal note on it.”
For tourism and history officials, though, the planning will go on, despite the setback.
“The commission would bring a greater, broader geographical link among the communities and the organizations that will be observing the bicentennial,” said Constance B. Barone, site manager for the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site. “It would help to coordinate. It would help to market and to advertise.”
Already, though, the group has a bevy of activities planned, starting in the spring, Ms. Barone said. She noted that other locales, such as Maryland and the province of Ontario, have invested substantially in events surrounding the 200th anniversary. Some of Maryland’s license plates feature War of 1812 regalia.
The state still has time to pass a law allowing a commission, she said.
“I suppose until December of 2015, there’s still time,” she said. “They fought the battle of New Orleans after the war ended. That would be a little late, though.”

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