In the wee hours of the morning on March 30, almost two days ahead of the April 1 deadline, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a $168.3 billion State Budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The Enacted Budget maintains a self-imposed cap of 2% on spending increases, and averts a predicted $4.4 billion spending gap. As in prior years, a significant portion of this year’s spending has been devoted to healthcare, and particularly Medicaid.
One of the key issues faced by the healthcare sector in New York State during budget negotiations this year was whether and how to address potential future cuts in federal financial support. The Enacted Budget addresses that general concern in two ways. First, at the prompting of the Greater New York Hospital Association and 1199SEIU (the health care workers union), the Enacted Budget creates a new “Health Care Transformation Fund.” The fund will be supported in part by a portion of the proceeds of the sale of Fidelis, a not-for-profit Medicaid managed care plan acquired by Centene, a national for-profit insurer, as well as a portion of Fidelis’ excess reserves, for a total expected amount of around $2 billion. Moneys in the fund will be available for transfer to any other fund in the State to “support health care delivery, including for capital investment, debt retirement or restructuring, housing or other social determinants of health, or transitional operating support to health care providers.” This amounts to a very significant source of funds which can be deployed by the State in a very flexible manner.
Second, the Enacted Budget includes language providing that, where federal legislation, regulation or other executive or judicial action in federal fiscal year 2019 is expected to reduce federal financial participation in Medicaid or other federal financial participation by $850 million or more in state fiscal years 2018-19 or 2019-20, the Director of the Division of the Budget must submit a plan to the Legislature identifying the resulting cuts to be made in State spending. The Legislature will then have 90 days to adopt an alternative plan; if it does not, then the Division of the Budget’s plan will go into effect immediately. In short, this language could, in effect, completely undo the budget just adopted by the Legislature, with minimal legislative input.
The 2018-19 Enacted Budget includes a plethora of other financial and policy reforms affecting virtually every segment of the healthcare sector. Some highlights include:
Health Care Facility Capital Funds: The Enacted Budget includes $525 million for the latest iteration of the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program, which provides capital grants to healthcare providers.
Pharmacy: The Enacted Budget makes a variety of changes to address the opioid crisis, including establishing a $100 million “Opioid Stewardship Fund” to be supported by manufacturers and distributors of opioids, which will be used to support a variety of opioid-related programs.
Mental Hygiene: The Enacted Budget expands and clarifies the ability of mental health, substance use disorder and developmental disabilities services providers to offer integrated services, and provides $1.5 million for the creation of a new Independent Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Ombudsman to assist individuals in receiving appropriate health insurance coverage. It also includes a variety of provisions related to the transition of developmental disabilities services to managed care.
Long Term Care: The Enacted Budget sets out a plan for limiting the number of licensed home care services agencies that a managed long term care plan may contract with, effectively forcing consolidations in that sector. It also allows the Commissioner of Health to reduce reimbursement to poor-performing nursing homes. At the same time, it makes a significant number of additional assisted living program beds available at the discretion of the Commissioner.
Hospitals: The Enacted Budget establishes a new category of “Enhanced Safety Net Hospitals” that would be eligible for additional reimbursement.
Managed Care: The Enacted Budget includes a variety of reforms related to health homes, and makes a variety of changes to the rules governing managed long term care eligibility and enrollment.
These highlights are just the tip of the iceberg. Over the next several days, we will provide additional detail on each of the areas outlined above. In the meantime, any questions about the 2018-19 New York State Healthcare Budget can be addressed to Farrell Fritz’s Regulatory & Government Relations Practice Group at (518) 313-1450 or NYSRGR@FarrellFritz.com.