Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Sick Poke in the Eye

The health care conglomerate of New York State is shamelessly trying to tar the governor-and frighten all of us with bogus claims of impending health care doom; all so the hospitals and its union can pick the tax payers' pockets with impunity, As the NY Post reports this morning: "A hospital trade group and a health-care union yesterday released a bizarre new attack ad - using a sightless man wearing sunglasses to slam legally blind Gov. Paterson for budget cuts."

Now it's one thing to poke fun at Paterson-as SNL did over the weekend, for his stumbling on the Kennedy fiasco; but it's quite something different when the biggest tax sponge in the state mocks the governor's disability in order to feed its bottomless money pit: "To some observers, the blind man's role in the statewide attack ad against Paterson's plan to cut health care by $3.5 billion seems too personal by even Albany's standards for no-holds-barred budget battles."

But Bill Hammond really underscores the shamelessness of this hospital/labor attempt to avoid any fiscal responsibility: "Year after year, the governor tries to rein in skyrocketing Medicaid costs that threaten to break the bank. Year after year, hospitals and nursing homes fight back with scare tactics, claiming that even modest cuts will cause patients across New York to suffer. Year after year, the Legislature caves to the pressure - and then the cycle starts over."

So what's the governor trying to do here, close scores of hospitals and threaten the health of thousands of New Yorkers? Well, not really: "It takes a lot of chutzpah to spend millions of dollars on a slick ad campaign complaining about how hard up for money you are. It takes even more to imply that Paterson, who is legally blind, is betraying the disabled. But what's really shameless is trying to blame Paterson for the industry's own management failures. The guy in the wheelchair - along with every other New Yorker - has every reason to be outraged at the bloated, inefficient, top-heavy condition of New York's health care system. But he's sending his accusatory question in the wrong direction. It's not Paterson's fault if the industry can't make ends meet when New York's incredibly generous Medicaid program annually spends $2,283 per patient, more than double the national average of $1,026."

And, of course, this unholy alliance, when it's not attacking the governor, is busy scheming on how to get the legislature to tax us even further into fiscal hell in order to feed their own addiction to poor management: 'If anything, Paterson went too easy. He didn't actually cut the Medicaid budget, just slowed the growth. Nor did he reduce benefits for the poor and disabled or change eligibility standards. He simply asked caregivers to accept marginally lower fees. The proposed cuts would reduce the revenues of hospitals and nursing homes by about 1% or 2%, according to Health Commission Dr. Richard Daines. And what does the Paterson administration get for this minimal fiscal responsibility? Cries of bloody murder."

The conspirators, however, have a different view of all this, of course. As the Post points out: "GNYHA President Kenneth Raske said that the group launched the campaign against Paterson, a former ally, with "a heavy heart" and that the attacks were not intended to be personal. "We have our back against the wall in this process," Raske said. "We have institutions that are right now hemorrhaging. Some are on the borderline of closure. This is the last thing that us and the union want to do."

All of this is simply an attempt to roll the governor who, unlike his predecessor, isn't the kind of guy to fight back in any bare knuckles way. Still, if he can't stand up to the special interests, then all of his recent welcomed fiscal sobriety will be seen as so much hot air. This challenge is a lot more significant than the senate selection that the governor fumbled. This time, it's our money that he's playing with.