"The point was to say, in health, which is one of the big areas, how are we going to approach it with Washington so our hole doesn't get bigger, and number two, what are some areas that we agree on?" Said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, who attended the meeting. "The areas we focused on are medical malpractice. There clearly is an expense to the state and healthcare providers that, in terms of the cost of malpractice protection and the defensive health."
Wylde said several hospital executives and board members as well as representatives from the Greater New York Hospital Association were present. That included Ken Raske, the organization's president who was called a "chicken" by Housing Works this spring when he refused to debate Health Commissioner Richard Daines. GNYHA also partly-funded a blistering ad, featuring a blind man, opposing Paterson's proposed cuts and restructurings in the Medicaid program during the last budget cycle.
Paterson stopped by the meeting, which was held in the governor's Third Avenue office suite.
"Everybody around the table agreed. The question is how do you get it done," Wylde said. Medical malpractice suits mean big money for trial lawyers, who oppose most efforts to change tort regulations. They have an ally in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an attorney who remains "of counsel" to the firm of Weitz & Luxenberg.
Paterson and other top administration officials said yesterday that they were working "collaboratively" with the legislature to develop a plan for spending reductions, rather than unilaterally. Legislative leaders are fairly far apart; they don't even have a public agreement on exactly how much needs to be cut.
"They are, in fact, working on the budget plan," Wylde said of the executive staffers. "They're just trying to work on it in a collaborative way, rather than coming out with a plan and going head-to-head with the healthcare providers."