De Blasio hires consultants to help with Health + Hospitals
Mayor Bill de Blasio is turning to a well-known health care consultant to solve a problem that has bedeviled most of his predecessors — securing the city's financially troubled public hospital system.
Manatt Health, a division of the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, will begin work today, according to a de Blasio spokeswoman, looking to see if Health + Hospitals Corporation, which serves primarily Medicaid patients, can benefit from state reforms and national trends even as looming federal cuts threaten to make matters worse.
The cost for Manatt's services have not been finalized, the spokeswoman said.
De Blasio, during his budget presentation last month, promised to address Health + Hospitals Corporation, which is facing a multi-billion dollar deficit.
The mayor announced he would provide an immediate infusion of $337 million in addition to the more than $700 million the city intends to provide next year.
That won't solve the long-term problem. A recent state comptroller's report said the corporation's deficit is expected to double to nearly $2 billion within the next three years.
Ram Raju, president and CEO, announced his own turnaround plan last year. His idea is to grow his way out of financial trouble by improving patient service so that more people use his system.
Raju wants to see 2 million patients by 2020, up from 1.4 million in 2015, and to double the number of people enrolled in MetroPlus, the insurance arm of Health + Hospitals.
Raju also wants to promote his clinics and health centers so he can better manage patients before they need expensive acute care for which the corporation often does not receive full reimbursement.
Raju is restructuring his leadership team to better focus the system on ambulatory care and long-term care.
That aligns with the goals of the state's Medicaid redesign program, which is providing the city's public hospital with more than $1 billion to transform its delivery system.
Manatt already had signed a multi-million dollar contract with Health + Hospitals for consulting services relating to the Medicaid redesign program.
The key for Raju is wooing more patients with commercial insurance, which typically pays more than Medicaid, and is preferable, from a financial perspective, to the uninsured and undocumented immigrants.
The challenge he faces is that other health systems in New York City are, more than ever before, vying for those same patients. As Medicaid and Medicare move toward rewarding care management, the systems that thrive will be the ones that can most effectively manage the health of large populations, providing primary care and other basic services in many communities across the city as opposed to waiting for patients to walk through the hospital doors.
That explains why NYU Langone took over Brooklyn's Lutheran Medical Center and its network of Federally Qualified Health Centers and why Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ) partnered with Maimonides in Brooklyn, and why Mount Sinai recently announced a cardiology practice on Staten Island.
De Blasio and Raju can't be as nimble as their counterparts who run private hospitals, and it would be politically challenging to close one of the corporation's 11 hospitals so the administration must find other ways to grow revenues or trim expenses.
"You know we may be able to put more than one function in a building, and find ways to be more efficient, and save cost," de Blasio said during his budget presentation. "That certainly is, I think, one of the directions we’ll be looking at."