Brooklyn Boro

California Tea Partier tries to block waiver funds that could save Brooklyn hospitals

February 12, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Cuomo: A ‘transparently partisan attack’

A wealthy Republican from California is trying to throw a wrench into New York’s $10 billion Medicaid waiver request, $1 billion of which is supposed to go towards helping teetering Brooklyn hospitals.

Darrell Issa, the chairman of the Housing Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and two other committee members asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday to block the funds until New York repays billions of dollars in supposed overpayments made as far back as 1991.

“This is nothing more than another in a series of Chairman Issa’s transparently partisan attacks under the guise of official government action,” Governor Andrew Cuomo’s spokesperson Richard Azzopardi told the Brooklyn Eagle late Tuesday.

“The facts are that Governor Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign is successfully saving the federal government $17 billion over five years and we are asking to reinvest $10 billion of that in order to achieve even greater savings.”

Gov. Cuomo applied for the waiver funds in 2012. On February 27 in Albany, Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio presented a united front in their plea to the federal government to act immediately on the request. Cuomo warned, “If we don’t get help, hospitals will collapse.”

Mayor de Blasio has said that the $1 billion would have “a seismic impact for the long term.”

Over the last two decades, Rep. Issa claims, New York overbilled billions.

In 2010, a study found that state-run developmental disability centers were drastically overcharged Medicaid, billing $5,000 per day for each patient, adding up to nearly $2 million a year.

New York’s Medicaid transgressions took place before Cuomo became Governor, however, and the state has, over the last several years, been working hard at cleaning house. On February 3, Cuomo announced “the largest single year of recoveries of taxpayer dollars in the history of the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.”  

In one case, an investigation by the state Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) led to the arrest of a ring of rich Brooklyn rip-off artists who had fabricated information on their Medicaid applications.

In other cases, confusion over where to bill first – Medicare or Medicaid – resulted in $496 million in inappropriate Medicaid billings. OMIG recovered $211 million of this.

The administration said it has recovered more than $851 million dollars for 2013, according to preliminary figures, and the three-year total adds up to more than $1.73 billion — a 34 percent increase over the previous three years, and “the highest on record for any state Medicaid program integrity unit,” the Governor said in a release.

On Tuesday, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) expressed outrage with Issa’s move, calling it “a Tea Party attack” on New York State’s families.

“Rep. Issa’s request is an affront to the hardworking families of New York state who rely on our hospitals for care. This multimillionaire Congressman wants to decimate a health care system that everyday people rely on. Either he is so out of touch with reality or he just doesn’t care who his radical ideology harms. Either way, I call on Secretary Sebelius to reject this absurd request immediately.”

Rangel added, “I am proud to stand united with Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and others who recognize that New York City needs a Medicaid waiver to help save our struggling hospitals.”

Issa has repeatedly called for numerous investigations into subjects ranging from WikiLeaks to President Obama, who he called “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times,” according to USA Today.

According to TheHill.com, Issa is the wealthiest members of Congress, with a net worth close to $450 million, made by building and selling Viper car alarms.