New York State Budget Update: Joint Legislative Public Hearing on Health, Medicaid

NY State Government: Week in Review

On February 25, 2021, the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate convened their annual Health and Medicaid hearing on the proposed Executive Budget, which was previously scheduled to take place February 5, 2021. The proceedings and testimony of the commissioner of health, the superintendent of the Department of Financial Services, the Medicaid director, and the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General have been the focus of acute interest as the state’s reporting of data on nursing home resident COVID-19-related fatalities has come under increased scrutiny. While the hearing is convened annually to hear testimony from state agencies and stakeholders on the Governor’s proposed budget, a great deal of the focus during the testimony of the agency officials was on the state’s COVID-19 response, vaccination efforts and nursing home COVID-19 controversy.

During the more than seven hours of testimony from agency officials, the majority of which was delivered by the commissioner of health, legislators repeatedly questioned the state’s delay in releasing nursing home figures in response to earlier legislative information requests, and questioned the state’s offered interpretation of COVID-19’s spread in those facilities during the pandemic. While sympathetic to the concerns of New Yorkers and legislators, agency officials maintained their position put forward in previous statements and releases on the nursing homes issue. Governor Andrew Cuomo and both houses of New York’s Legislature have advanced packages of reforms crafted to address nursing home policy reforms in recent weeks, and the topic promises to be a continued area of focus as the state’s budget is negotiated over the next month.

While nursing home–related issues provided the majority of the focus during the period of agency testimony, legislators also took the opportunity to pose questions to officials on a number of other state budget- and policy-related topics including, but not limited to, concerns regarding rollout of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination program; staffing safety and adequacy at health care facilities during the pandemic; availability of personal protective equipment for frontline health care workers; alignment of proposed cuts to the Medicaid program with the growth in enrollment in those programs during the pandemic; the effect of the proposed carve-out of pharmacy benefits from Medicaid managed care to 340B providers; concerns about the potential use of Medicaid funding to balance the state’s general fund; the scope of the use of executive powers during the state’s response to the pandemic; and limited immunity provided to health care providers in last year’s 2020–21 state budget.

The Health and Medicaid event concluded the set of joint legislative public hearings conducted for this year’s budget, and represents a turning point for the budget negotiation process as the houses of the Legislature begin to focus on their own one-house budget responses to the proposed Executive Budget. Historically the legislative budget proposals are released in early to mid-March, after which the Legislature and Governor begin focused negotiations on a final budget for the state; the budget is due April 1, 2021. The Manatt team will continue to monitor developments as the state continues to craft its 2021–22 state fiscal year budget. We look forward to providing updates as the process continues.

The proceedings and testimony of the conference may be viewed at Joint Legislative Public Hearing on 2021 Executive Budget Proposal: Topic Health/Medicaid.



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