New York Governor Criticizes Cancer Treatment Ruling
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) on Tuesday criticized a decision last month by CMS that chemotherapy does not qualify for a provision of Medicaid that allows coverage for emergency services for undocumented immigrants and other noncitizens as "morally and clinically and legally wrong" and said he would file a lawsuit to challenge the decision, the New York Times reports (Kershaw/Miller, New York Times, 9/26).
The provision specifically excludes coverage for organ transplants but leaves to states the determination of whether other procedures qualify as emergency services, and states and courts have fought over the issue for years without a definitive resolution. CMS reached the decision after the conclusion of a federal audit of the New York Medicaid program that began in 2004. New York officials on Friday in a letter to CMS protested the decision on the grounds that physicians, not the federal government, should determine when chemotherapy is necessary (California Healthline, 9/24).
Spitzer said, "They are picking on the most vulnerable populations -- here immigrants who need chemotherapy, alternately children who are without health insurance -- and saying to those two groups, 'You will bear the brunt of our new-found fiscal conservatism,'" adding, "It is wrong. It's bad policy." New York Health Commissioner Richard Daines said that the state Medicaid program will continue to cover chemotherapy for undocumented immigrants at an estimated cost of $5 million to $10 million annually without federal funds.
CMS officials declined to comment on the announcements by Spitzer and Daines.
Adam Gurvitch, director of health advocacy for the New York Immigration Coalition, said, "(Spitzer is) doing the right thing."
However, Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, said, "For every million on chemotherapy for an illegal immigrant, something has to give somewhere. There's no printing press for money in New York City" (New York Times, 9/26).