Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, King: Foot-Dragging By Feds Puts Billions Of Dollars For Ny Hospitals At Risk -- Officials Urged Feds To Extend Deadline So Hospital Projects Can Move Forward

Statement

By:  Brian Higgins Kirsten Gillibrand Pete King Chuck Schumer
Date: Jan. 19, 2011
Location: Unknown

350 Long-Overdue Projects to Modernize Hospitals Across New York At Risk Of Stopping Dead In Their Tracks -- Without "F-SHRP' Funding, NY Hospitals Can't Meet Construction Deadlines and Plan For The Future

Today, U.S Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Representatives Brian Higgins (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) released a letter urging Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jacob J. Lew to extend an important construction completion deadline for capital and other projects at New York State hospitals and other health facilities, paid for with federal dollars. The construction deadline is currently September 30th of this year, meaning that under current regulations, the projects need to be completed by then, or funding will be cut off . The program through which these 350 projects in NY are being funded is called Federal-State Health Reform Program (F-SHRP). The program provides help to modernize hospitals and create jobs across the state by investing in infrastructure projects. The F-SHRP program's goals are to promote the efficient operation of the State's health care system; consolidate and right-size New York's health care system by reducing excess capacity in the acute care system; shift emphasis in long-term care from institutional-based to community-based settings; expand the adoption of advanced health information technology and improve ambulatory and primary care provision.

In 2006 New York was awarded $2.5 billion for capital improvements at hospitals and health care facilities across New York State, with the stipulation that the projects needed to be completed by September 30th, 2011. Unfortunately, due to bureaucratic red tape at the state and federal level, it took an unexpectedly long time to get the projects underway. Now many projects across the state are in danger of being stopped in their tracks, meaning major job losses, unless the deadline is extended. Projects at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, NY; St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse; Bassett Healthcare Network in Little Falls, NY; Oswego Health in Oswego, NY; will be particularly hard hit.

The state of New York has requested an extension, but the Feds have so far not responded.

"This program invests now in projects that create jobs in the short-term and maximizes taxpayer savings in the medium and long-term," said Schumer. "This aims to give New York the most up to date and cost-effective hospitals so that patients can receive the highest level of care at the lowest possible cost. Putting a halt to these job-creating projects because of an arbitrary deadline, particularly when the hospitals themselves are not at fault, makes no sense."

"This agreement has resulted in greater oversight and accountability," said Senator Gillibrand. "It has saved taxpayer money and improved care for millions of New Yorkers. The waiver should absolutely be extended. These are exactly the kind of solutions we need right now. It is common sense."

"This is a fight to build on the progress underway that is creating quality jobs in the construction and health sectors and delivering enhanced treatment and care to patients across New York," said Congressman Higgins. "Keeping these federal funds here is critical to the state's economy and our position as a leader in health care delivery and breakthrough medicine."

"It is imperative that New York be granted a waiver," said Congressman King. "This program not only enhances patient care but reduces Medicaid waste, fraud and abuse. Additionally, the failure to secure an extension would shut down shovel-ready projects and cost New Yorkers good jobs."

Through the F-SHRP program, New York State has been empowered to implement significant reform to the health care system including long-overdue and necessary modernization of the state's health care infrastructure. Further, F-SHRP has increased access to patient care, while improving the quality of care through the establishment of medical homes. As a condition of the waiver, the state has consistently met annual goals to reduce Medicaid fraud and abuse.

Beginning in 2006 and continuing through 2010, New York State made grant awards of approximately $2.5 billion in state and federal funds to finance more than 470 projects. These awards are providing necessary financial support to help facilities undertake major projects, including developing supportive housing options as alternatives to nursing homes, revamping behavioral health services to better integrate medical and mental health care, and assisting facilities in developing health information technology interfaces to help coordinate care for patients with multiple chronic conditions. Many hospitals also are in the process of using these funds to help finance major projects to improve efficiency and expand access, including developing new primary care clinics and shifting inpatient beds to outpatient space.

While the funds have been committed to all of these worthy and complex projects, final completion of 350 of them may not occur before the September 30th expiration of the F-SHRP program.

The extension would not require additional federal funds, but simply provide the state with authority to use the federal funds already committed under the waiver. In fact, it is expected that full implementation of all F-SHRP programs will result in Medicaid savings to both the state and federal government. An extension of F-SHRP would allow hundreds of reform and restructuring projects to be completed, including job-creating capital projects throughout the state

As the continuation of F-SHRP becomes increasingly uncertain, many facilities in early stages of their projects are reconsidering moving ahead, further endangering the job-creating capital projects and long-term reform that will help build a more efficient and cost-effective health care system.

Schumer, Gillibrand, King, and Higgins were joined on the letter by their colleagues in the New York congressional delegation.