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State Healthcare Industry Opposes Hospital Assessment

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – New York's healthcare industry is planning to aggressively lobby state legislators to reject Governor Pataki's plan to charge hospitals and nursing homes a special assessment.

The governor's proposal, released as part of his budget last week, would place a special assessment on hospitals, nursing homes and home care agencies, generating an estimated $200 million in revenues. The healthcare industry is calling it a "sick tax."

William Pike of the Western New York Healthcare Association says he was surprised since the Governor had previously said he wouldn't raise taxes.

"We see a proposal that includes a pretty significant tax on hospitals," Pike said. "The only thing is that it's not called a tax. It's called an assessment. But as the old cliche says, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a tax."

Pike says the healthcare industry is also concerned about additional cuts on nursing homes. But with counties across the state complaining about the Medicaid burden on their budgets, Pike admits it's a dilemma.

"There is growth in Medicaid spending because more people, especially as baby-boomers age and people get older, are qualifying for Medicaid if they can't afford health care," Pike said. "At the same time, hospitals and nursing homes are seeing cost increases because of the cost of pharmaceuticals."

On Monday, Pike's parent agency, the Healthcare Association of New York, was scheduled to release its annual report on the financial health of the state's hospitals and nursing homes. The report is titled "On the Brink," giving some hint about the fiscal difficulties the healthcare industry is facing.