Pataki, Spitzer Endorse New York Hospital Plan
New York Gov. George Pataki (R) and Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer (D) on Wednesday endorsed a report recommending nine hospital closures and the reconfiguration of 48 additional hospitals in the state, Long Island Newsday reports (Clancy, Long Island Newsday, 11/30).
Pataki and the state Legislature formed the New York state Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century last year to recommend changes to the state's health care system, which is the most expensive in the country. The commission on Tuesday released its recommendations, which it estimated would increase revenue at hospitals that remain open by $720 million per year and save Medicare, Medicaid and other insurers $800 million annually.
The commission's chair, Stephen Berger, said that hospital reconfigurations could have a greater impact on the health care system than the nine hospital closures, including proposals to redesign hospitals through mergers, downsizing, and eliminating some services while adding others. The recommendations would reduce the number of hospital beds in the state by at least 4,200, or 7%.
In addition, the plan would close or downsize several nursing homes, reducing the number of beds by 3,000, or 2.6% of the state's total (California Healthline, 11/29).
Pataki, whose approval is necessary for the plan to receive consideration from the state Legislature, on Wednesday said the plan is "the right thing for New York's health care future." Pataki said the plan would be "enormously successful in both saving money and strengthening health care in New York state" (Lovett/Campanile, New York Post, 11/30).
Spitzer also endorsed the plan. As the incoming governor, Spitzer and his administration would be responsible for implementing the recommendations.
The Legislature can block the plan only if both houses vote against it in its entirety by Dec. 31. The New York Times reports that despite "strenuous protests from some legislators whose districts include the affected institutions, lawmakers and top aides in both the Senate and Assembly" have said the "prevailing sense in Albany was that the Legislature ... would not stand in the way of the proposed changes."
If the plan becomes law, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2007 (Perez-Pena, New York Times, 11/30).