New York State's Medicaid Director Suggests Cuts

Jason Helgerson, formerly Wisconsin's Medicaid director, came to New York to help control costs.
by | April 2011

New York spends more, per capita, on Medicaid than any other state in the country, which doesn’t bode well for its current $10 billion budget deficit. In an effort to rein in the program’s rising costs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo looked to the Midwest and tapped Jason Helgerson to be his state Medicaid director.

Helgerson was Wisconsin’s Medicaid director for four years before his appointment to the New York position in January. A self-described policy wonk, he was successful in cutting $625 million from Wisconsin’s biennial Medicaid budget. By collaborating with major stakeholders and the public over the course of a few months, Helgerson found more than 70 ways to reduce costs, including buying in bulk and checking medical prices frequently to find the best deals.

Now, Helgerson has been asked to repeat Wisconsin’s success on a much bigger scale -- New York is expected to spend more than $53 billion in fiscal 2011, as opposed to Wisconsin’s $6.2 billion. So far, he’s off to a good start. Helgerson and a group of state legislators, union leaders and health industry representatives submitted 79 recommendations for restructuring and redesigning the program as part of a governor-appointed task force called the Medicaid Redesign Team. If the state Legislature implements these recommendations as part of the state budget that was due April 1, the state could save $1 billion in 2011-2012. Recommendations include proposing a spending cap, reforming medical malpractice and streamlining program regulations.

Update, March 31, 2011: The New York state Legislature passed its 2011-2012 budget, which includes a majority of the Medicaid Redesign Team's recommendations. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press release on the budget can be found here.

Tina Trenkner
Tina Trenkner | Deputy Editor, |  |  @tinatrenkner