County Tight-Roping Health-Care Dilemmas

Medical Treatment in a Time of Budget Restraints for Counties

Executive PJ Wendel went to Albany for a New York State Association of Counties conference with a different agenda only days after the Chautauqua County Legislature unanimously endorsed a measure demanding New York state approval for a new Brooks-TLC Healthcare System in the Dunkirk-Fredonia area. There was talk of a Medicaid proposal that may result in a $625 million cut for counties across the state this fiscal year.

The State Association of Counties claims online that the governor is “irresponsibly opting to rob local funds” rather than bringing state expenditures under control. A potential annual loss of $4.3 million in local funds is at stake. A resolution rejecting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s budget proposal to shift costs for Medicaid to local taxpayers was approved by lawmakers on the same meeting date (Feb. 23) that they voted to fund a new hospital in the county’s northern part.

Marty Proctor (R), a legislator from Mina, spoke up in favor of the motion before the vote.

“Federal Medicaid assistance money is allocated by the federal government to all our counties but given to New York state as a pass-through to all our counties. Our governor, in her budget, has proposed to keep these funds,” he said.

More than 84 million individuals in the United States receive health coverage thanks to Medicaid. This includes low-income adults, children, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. The federal guidelines are used to inform how the states manage it. Money for the program comes from both the federal government and individual states.

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County Tight-Roping Health-Care Dilemmas

At the regional level, the number of people who rely on the programme is 44,963. About one-third of the local populace is represented there. Based on projected costs, the Social Services budget line item for 2023 shows that county Medicaid spending will exceed $28 million. This is a drop of $2 million, or 7%, from what the county reported in 2016. The county’s budget for 2019–2023 is $274 million, up $15 million (or 15%) from the previous five years.

Yet, the hospital’s already precarious financial situation is heightened by the opposition to the governor’s plan and the subsequent criticism. At the beginning of March, building season begins, marking a crucial deadline for Brooks-TLC as it waits for the state to approve the release of roughly $74 million set aside for a new facility. One more significant day occurs with it.

The deadline for Brooks-TLC to complete the acquisition of the land from Cornell Cooperative Extension, where the new hospital will be erected, has been extended to June 1. Wendel’s political gambling, driven in large part by strong Republican enthusiasm in upstate, isn’t helping the Brooks-TLC scenario. The Democrats who control the state budget have not been very nice to Chautauqua County as of late.

On Monday, Hochul visited UB to announce $3.2 million in education funding. Plus, she disclosed a meager $228,000 for Jamestown Community College. The state department of transportation received additional cash to repair roads and bridges in the region. The county saw no other noteworthy efforts.

When she visited Dunkirk in January and pledged $10 million to the community as part of the Downtown Revitalization Plan, she was cautious about predicting when the 2016 and 2017 hospital construction money would become available.

“This is very important to our health team and they’re involved in conversations about keeping it viable,” she said. “It’s important. It’s a job creator, but also you need a place to go get care when you’re sick.”

After another major county project secured funds a few weeks later, it’s hard to take those statements seriously. Hochul’s office announced $658 million to fund 127 healthcare initiatives on February 15. One of them was the $30 million invested in expanding and centralizing surgical services at UPMC Chautauqua in Jamestown. In 2018, Brooks-TLC began planning for a new state-of-the-art building in the hopes of achieving long-term financial security.

The company lost $55 million over a period of four years due to deficit spending. At the same time period, the state of New York, under the Democratic leadership of then-governor Andrew Cuomo or former lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul, provided $40 million in subsidies to the Dunkirk facility, which was failing due to its age.

Spring approaches and the outlook grows even more uncertain. A crisis has befallen a healthcare provider that has relied on continuous funding from Albany while the county fights for $4.3 million, or 1.5% of its overall budget. During Wendel’s second month in charge, Lakeshore Hospital in Irving shut down. In the event that another service provider is compelled to follow suit, he has no desire to lead them.

Follow the county‘s official Twitter account for timely updates on important developments.

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