After consulting, Cuomo ally to oversee Medicaid money
ALBANY—Former deputy secretary of health Jim Introne is returning to the state Department of Health to help oversee the disbursal of more than $6 billion in federal money from a recently approved Medicaid waiver, possibly to health care organizations who are clients of the politically well-connected firm he recently worked for.
Introne, who began working at the state health department on June 5 this year, will serve as special adviser to the state health commissioner, a department spokesperson confirmed.
In his new position, Introne will provide counsel on matters related to the health department's Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program, the spokesperson said.
Introne retired from the department in 2013, and afterward began working for Sachs Consulting, a firm headed by Jeffrey Sachs, a close friend and ally of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Sachs is Introne’s former employee and protege, and his firm counts among its clients some of New York state’s most powerful health care industry players, including NYU Langone Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Maimonides Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center, Brooklyn Hospital Center and Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
(Sachs is not a registered lobbyist, so his full client list remains unclear.)
Many of those clients have much at stake in the coming waiver process, and Introne will have a key role in deciding which hospitals ultimately receive funding from the waiver, which will be disbursed over a period of five years, and is intended to help hospitals transform their delivery systems.
Introne did not respond to calls for comment.
Introne, who served as the head of the state's office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (now known as the Office for Persons With Developmental Disabilities) from 1980 to 1982, joined the Cuomo administration in 2011 after serving on Cuomo's transition team.
Introne and Sachs were both an integral part of one of Cuomo's early victories as governor. Introne served as one of the members of a four-person team assembled by Sachs to advise Cuomo on how the state could reduce Medicaid spending in late 2010 and early 2011, immediately following Cuomo's election to his first term.
That effort became what was known as the governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team— a group of health care industry stakeholders charged with finding ways to cut the state’s Medicaid spending. Cutting Medicaid spending, which had ballooned over the previous decade to more than $50 billion a year, was an albatross for both former Governor Eliot Spitzer and George Pataki.
Sachs, a close personal friend of Cuomo and godfather to the governor's daughter Michaela, was criticized at the time for his role in the Medicaid Redesign effort, given his status as a paid consultant to health industry groups that stood to benefit from the redesign.
A spokesperson for Sachs Consulting told the New York Times in 2011 that his health care consulting did not amount to lobbying, but that Sachs had voluntarily frozen all contact with his clients while he worked on the Medicaid Redesign effort, to avoid the appearance of a conflict.
As Capital has previously reported, health care industry stakeholders agreed to the cuts proposed by the Medicaid design team on the understanding that the state would later apply for the waiver funding, helping return some of the money the hospitals would lose in the short term.
The Medicaid Redesign Team’s effort was inextricably linked to the state’s decision to seek the Medicaid waiver, which it first applied for in August of 2011.
Introne was involved in discussions about the waiver even after he left the executive chamber, engaging in calls with the governor’s office and the Department of Health over the Medicaid waiver, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
Introne also attended a meeting with Cuomo and a delegation of Brooklyn lawmakers where they discussed the fate of Brooklyn hospitals, despite the fact that Sachs’ firm counts as clients existing Brooklyn hospitals and and some trying to break into the Brooklyn market, such as NYU Langone Medical Center, which is bidding for the right to buy Long Island College Hospital from SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
The waiver money, a matching grant program from the federal government that allows providers across the state to invest in new ways to provide and deliver care to their communities, is divided into several different pots of money. The largest is the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program, or DSRIP, a $6 billion pot of money that will be distributed to health systems across the state. The aim of the money is to reduce in-patient hospitalizations by 25 percent.