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New York State Ethics Panel to Investigate Medicaid Redesign Team

March 9, 2011

The reform team in February.

The reform team in February.

A national civil rights organization has requested that New York State's ethics commission investigate four Medicaid Redesign Team members for breaching state conflict of interest laws.

The team members, Jeffrey Sachs, Michael Dowling, Kenneth Raske and Dan Sisto, are employed by -- or work as consultants for -- organizations that stand to benefit directly from the team's proposal 131. That measure would create a financial windfall for hospitals and health care providers by significantly limiting their responsibility to patients killed or injured due to malpractice.

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Sachs is a paid consultant to large hospitals and health care systems; Dowling is the president and CEO of the North Shore LIJ Health System; Raske is the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association; and Sisto is the president of the Healthcare Association of New York State.

The complaint was filed by the Center for Justice and Democracy. The state ethics commission is looking into the group's claim.

The call for the investigation follows weeks of criticism by advocates for the state's 4.7 million Medicaid users. Some have said the Medicaid reform process heavily favors hospital lobbyists and the state's health care union.

"If what [Cuomo] wanted was to have experts at the table about what should be done to reform Medicaid, he would have had other consumer representatives at the table," said Nisha Agarwal, director of the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a nonprofit law firm that works to protect the rights of the undeserved. "Instead the reform team was weighted in favor of the very groups that are supposed to be reformed. That is extremely problematic."

Cuomo's deputy secretary for health, James Introne, dismissed the ethics complaint, telling the Wall Street Journal that it was an "absurd stunt" lodged by a group "devoted to fighting against tort reform."

In January, Cuomo formed a 27-member Medicaid Redesign Team, charging its members with creating a package of suggested reforms that would save the state billions of dollars and improve care. Cuomo accepted the team's reform package in late February, and it was written into his 2011-2012 budget. The reform suggestions will become law once the legislature approves the budget.

Read analysis of reform proposals Housing Works supports and opposes.



  
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This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
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