Appearing together in Albany on Monday for their first joint press conference since the mayoral inauguration, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio set aside previous differences as they called for federal help in solving the Brooklyn hospital crisis.
Cuomo and de Blasio asked the federal government to approve a waiver that would allow New York State to reinvest $10 billion in Medicaid dollars toward improving outpatient care while minimizing the need for more expensive hospital stays.
State reforms to the Medicaid system have already saved both New York and the federal government $34 billion, Cuomo said, making his case for the waiver's approval. He also highlighted the need for swift action.
“The situation is critical. It’s especially critical in Brooklyn," Cuomo said. “Hospitals in Brooklyn will close if we wait any longer.”
Both Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Long Island College Hospital in downtown Brooklyn have narrowly averted closures in recent months, thanks in part to state cuts to Medicaid reimbursements in 2009. The hospitals serve hundreds of thousands of Brooklyn residents, many uninsured, who are facing longer treks to the nearest emergency room if they shut down for good.
De Blasio acknowledged Cuomo's role in providing stays of execution for the faltering hospitals.
"The state has stepped in each and every time. I know it has not been easy, Governor, and I know it hasn't been cheap, but you did something powerful by helping us have the opportunity to bridge to long-term solutions," de Blasio said. "As the governor said, we're united in our plea to the federal government to do the right thing for New York, to do the right thing for Brooklyn, give us this waiver so we can secure the long-term."
It was a remarkably conciliatory tone for de Blasio to strike, considering he sued the state and went so far as to get himself arrested protesting the closure of Long Island College Hospital back in July when he was still just a primary candidate. At the time, a spokesperson for Cuomo called it a "gimmick."
"Our message today is very simple. We are united in our plea to the federal government that we need help and we need it now," Cuomo said. "It's not enough to say, 'It's on its way.' It's got to be here on an immediate basis."