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Healthcare Leaders Mindful of Medicaid Burden

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – As the state's Medicaid burden continues to cripple Erie County, some local health care leaders offer their views on efforts for reform.

Some local health care leaders say itis time for Medicaid reform. Even though Medicaid is designed to reimburse hospitals and health providers, it doesn't always happen. The president of the Western New York Healthcare Association says New York State hospitals have probably lost close to $18 billion because of Medicaid programs. Mary LaRowe says the hefty price of Medicaid to local municipalities is a big concern to the local healthcare association.

"Quite frankly, the whole Medicaid piece is a little scary for us right now because when budgets start to have deficits, they start to look for cuts," LaRowe said. "Our greatest concern is that there will be further cuts considered. Medicaid right now doesn't cover the cost of services most of the hospitals provide. That is a grave concern to us. It's certainly something that we'll be taking before our legislative leaders, making sure they're fully aware."

The president of one local hospital also believes there is a need for Medicaid reform. John Davanzo, president of Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, says there is "no doubt" that Medicaid is a very robust program in New York when you compare it to other states.

"There may be issues of rationalization of the system as well as what benefit packages are available," Davanzo said. "We need to be fiscally responsible and realistic about programs like that. We're taxpayers, too, and we have to mindful of what we're paying for and its value."

Davanzo says hospitals are "economic engines" in the region and at times go unappreciated by the state. Earlier this week, the healthcare association announced that hospitals state-wide contribute nearly $80 billion to New York's economy.

The association says even with the anticipated state fiscal deficit in 2005, it will be advocating on behalf of Western New York hospitals to make sure the state recognizes how critical they are to communities.