Last Monday, the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committees heard testimony on the Health and Medicaid proposals in the 2014-15 Executive Budget.


State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah discussed the state’s multibillion-dollar hospital restructuring plan, and expressed cautious optimism about the state’s application for a $10 billion federal Medicaid waiver.  He said that the federal funds are essential for the survival of several downstate hospitals. The waiver would fund a restructuring of hospitals away from expensive inpatient care toward more walk-in services, with an eye toward reducing avoidable hospital stays by 25%.  He said that the state has saved $4.6 billion since it began restructuring the Medicaid program in 2011, and expecting to save some $34 billion over the next five years.


Once again, Commissioner Shah provided no update regarding the status of his office’s review of the health impacts of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (commonly called “fracking”), which began 16 months ago.


At Wednesday’s hearing on public protection, Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti defended the court system’s request for $1.8 billion to support statewide court operations.  She characterized the judiciary’s request for a 2.5% increase over last year’s budget as a ‘road to recovery’ budget.  She said that the Judiciary’s budget request reflects a balance between its constitutional duty to ensure access to justice and its efforts to reduce costs.


At Thursday’s Higher Education budget hearing, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher urged state lawmakers today to increase funding for the state’s 64 public colleges and universities.  Gov. Cuomo has proposed a 0.8% budget increase for higher education in his Executive budget, from $3.2 billion to nearly $3.3 billion.  She also urged lawmakers to approve $600 million for capital investments and a $20.7 million increase in aid for SUNY hospitals.