January 29, 2008

Medicaid Contradiction

The highly publicized financial crisis at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center (NFMMC), as well as the loan request by two Niagara County Legislators to help bail out the facility, exposes what is a massive contradiction in health care.

In case you missed it, Niagara Falls Democrats Dennis Virtuoso and Renae Kimble plan to ask the Niagara County Legislature to loan NFMMC $3.5 million from county coffers to bail out the hospital from its current financial woes. The financial crunch at NFMMC stems from, according to the hospital’s President and CEO, Joseph Ruffolo, the high level of uncompensated care provided by the health care facility to uninsured patients and the way the county processes Medicaid applications.

The contradiction which this situation exposes is this: For years, we have heard one County Legislator after another talk about the massive Medicaid burden on the county. Former Legislator Lee Simonson was on the Medicaid expense bandwagon 20 years ago. When you look at the single biggest expense that Niagara County faces, Medicaid at about $41 million, the argument seems to hold water. But what about local hospitals, like NFMMC, that are completely reliant on Medicaid to exist? That is the double-edged sword of Medicaid. Without proper Medicaid reimbursement, these hospitals will close, or at least cut services. Meanwhile, the taxpayers of this county must continue to shoulder the burden of a massive Medicaid bill.

On a recent trip to Lockport Memorial Hospital, I happened to ask the woman who takes the preliminary information in the Emergency Room what percentage of ER patients are on Medicaid. Her response? 80%. Eighty percent of LMH's ER patients are on Medicaid!!! That, to me, was a stunning discovery. Another reinforcement of the contradiction of Medicaid. They need Medicaid to survive, and we keep hearing about the skyrocketing costs of Medicaid.

Ruffalo stated that this is a county problem. Now, I don't claim to have any statistics related to the demographics of NFMMC, but to me, this is not a county issue, it's a Niagara Falls issue. I would venture that a minimum of 90% of patients are from that city. Another 8-9% may be tourists visiting the area.

So the question beckons: Why are two county legislators looking for the county to bail them out? Why not look to the state delegation representing Niagara Falls? Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte has been excruciatingly silent through this ordeal. Where is Antoine Thompson? Could someone please remind him that he represents Niagara Falls? Oh, maybe someone could send him a map as well.

As we know, the party in power has the final say. As our local periodicals have pointed out, Virtuoso and Kimble are in the minority in the County Leg. But the Dems have Dem Guv. Spitzer, Dem Sen. Thompson, Dem Ass. DelMonte and Dem Mayor Dyster. How could the local state delegation NOT be able to come up with the cash for NFMMC? Are these local state representatives that impotent or is it just easier to go ask the county?

I for one do not want one more dime of my taxes going to subsidize this mismanaged facility. Run your facility within the guidelines that every other business works within or close your doors.

13 comments:

fat tony said...

Excellent follow up on this issue from your post a few days ago. I'm with you. At first I thought there might be some validty to what NFMMC has been saying. But it's becoming more obvious this is just a bailout.

proud democrat said...

Thats not a very fair comparison. Memorial takes in patients that none of the other hospitals in the region take in.( minus ECMC)So you can ask the other hospitals what there percentage of patients are. But remember that they do not have mental health patients to deal with. NFMMC takes in these patients from all over the county not just Niagara Falls! But its just to easy to take a swipe at the democratic elected officals in the area isn`t it.

Johnny Walker said...

There is no way the county should be giving money to NFMMC. Every hospital in Western NY is experiencing some sort of fiscal crisis. Why should this hospital not be held to the same standard? Ruffalo is a wind bag anyway. Anything he says should be taken with a grain of salt.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Ruffalo approached DelMonte and Thompson, and when they told him there is nothing he could do, he went to Kimble and Virtuoso to do his dirty work. There is not a chance in hell Ruffalo would make DelMonte and Thompson look bad, so what's he do? Tosses it to the county leg because he doesnt give a crap if the "majority caucus" looks bad. What was that phrase you used, Sean, politics at its worst? Yes it is, and it all starts with your city.

Karen NT said...

Proud Dem, DelMonte has proven herself to be completely useless. What has she done for NF? This is an amazing opportunity for her to shine, and where is she???? As the post says, the party in power holds the cards. With all of those high-powered Dems in control, why can't they get this done? Maziarz just got $1.5 million to renovate the old Harrison building in Lockport. You mean to tell me that between Spitzer, Thompson, DelMonte and Dyster they can't get $3.5 mil for NFMMC?

can't fool 'em all said...

But if it was a coal plant with millions in profits, then they should get a bail out in the form of tax breaks, right? Cause coal plants are more important than hospitals?

Larry S said...

Once again, people are incapable of staying on point. The issue is whether or not Niagara County should loan the hospital $3.5 million. I personally believe that someone needs to come up with the money. We cannot afford to lose the psychiatric care that is provided for many in OUR community. I'd rather see it come from the state, or even from the casino revenues, before the county moves forward.

Anonymous said...

Can'tFoolEm, once again, takes the discussion back to AES. Blah, blah, blah. What part of NO ONE CARES are you unable to comprehend? My God, here's a nickel, go buy a life.

dark knight said...

Kudos to DelMonte for staring down Ruffalo. Let's not forget it was Ruffalo who had 1199 kicking the holy hell out of DelMonte during the casino money debate. Looks like Joe is reaping a little of what he sows.

I bet DelMonte figures this whole episode will highlight Ruffalo's extreme salarly package and spell the end of his failed tenure at Memorial.

Anonymous said...

DelMonte is staring down Ruffalo? Where did you see her make any comment on this issue whatsoever? She's doing the typical Francine: Go hide until the dust settles.

Anonymous said...

I think Can't Fool Em is just pointing out the hypocricy here. You legislators want to pretend that the AES deal never happened. Like no one's allowed to bring it up ... but Sean O'Connor's health care and Spitzer's "Day One" claim end up in every post.

Anonymous said...

No, the point is that based on the fact that every single Dem candidate who tried to use AES as a campaign issue LOST. That is why no one cares. Again, to try to get back on point, the state delegation does have an opportunity to shine here. It's time to put up or shut up, Franny.

proud democrat said...

To most of you, thanks. You just proved my point. Alot of you took your swipes.GOOD JOB. Way to stay on piont with this one. Screw the AES subject already too. Its over. Helping the medical center is everyones best interest. By the way Larry S...exellent post. right on target!!

dark knight said...

I'm no big DelMonte fan, but c'mon it would be in her best interest to help NFMMC unless she had a reason NOT to...and that reason is Ruffalo. I can't believe all of you political types are so blind not to this story within a story.