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March 17, 1999 

Hospital interests urged to 'stop scaring New Yorkers'

Council decries fear-mongering campaign against proposals to curb health spending.

The Business Council Wednesday urged lobbyists for hospitals and health-care worker unions to "stop scaring New Yorkers" with false claims about impending changes in the hospital industry.

"Once again, the hospital lobbyists and unions are spreading fear instead of facts," said Daniel B. Walsh, president/CEO of The Business Council. "It's one thing to make your best case to the Legislature on the merits. But trying to panic elderly and sick people is simply wrong."

The Council released letters from Walsh to the Greater New York Hospital Association, the HealthCare Association of New York State and Local 1199 of the National Health and Human Service Employees Union.

The union and the hospital lobbying organizations have mounted major ad campaigns aimed at preserving the nation's most costly taxpayer subsidies for hospitals. A political consultant advising the coalition told The New York Times last week that the groups are "prepared for a multi-million-dollar campaign."

"Some of the claims that have been made, in the name of hospital spending, are truly irresponsible," Walsh said.

Walsh noted that Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, has warned of calamity for hospitals if proposed cuts are made--and that Raske's sound bites are strikingly similar to his apocalyptic warnings in other years. The Council's release cited 12 other examples of such echoes since 1989 in media such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and Newsday.

For example, in 1990, Raske told Newsday that Medicaid cuts proposed by Governor Cuomo "have the potential to wreck the health-care system in New York."

In his letter, Walsh cited data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that Raske's dire predictions have never come true.

He noted that hospital employment throughout New York averaged just over 392,000 in 1998--down less than 1 percent from a decade earlier. In fact, employment at private, state and local government-funded hospitals grew for years after Raske's 1989 predictions of "major layoffs."

New York taxpayers support the nation's most generous and costly health-care system, Walsh said. "Tax-payers shouldn't have to continue bearing that huge cost," he added.

In 1997, New York's Medicaid spending nearly equaled spending in Texas and California combined-- even though both states have more residents than New York.

The Governor's Executive Budget would cut Medicaid costs for both the state and county taxpayers, even though New York's Medicaid funding would remain the nation's most generous. Without new reforms, total Medicaid spending in the coming year would total $29.1 billion, up 21 percent from five years ago.

Under the Governor's budget, Medicaid costs would still rise to $28.1 billion, or 17 percent higher than five years ago, according to the state Budget Division.

"There is no 'emergency' in New York's health-care system," Walsh said. "If the hospital associations and unions are willing to lift their rhetoric out of the sandbox, we can engage in real debate about the best ways to reduce the high cost and improve the quality of health care."

Click here for The Council's release.