Paterson Responds to Health Attacks, But Says He Won’t Go the Spitzer Route

It's Day Two of a passive-aggressive blitz by the Paterson administration to make their case that funding should be shifted from hospitals—on whose behalf there has been intense lobbying in the form of extensive, anti-Paterson advertising—to preventive care and health clinics.

David Paterson returned Friday morning to one such institution—the William F. Ryan Clinic—in his old state senatorial district. The reception for Paterson and his top health policy advisers was warm, with kind words for the governor from Barbara Minch, the clinic head and a longtime acquaintance.

Last night, Paterson stopped just short of calling Greater New York Hospital Association president Ken Raske a chicken for not accepting a call for debate with State Health Commissioner Richard Daines. He laid into the organization again this morning.

"Clearly the union and the hospitals don't mind a public discussion, that's why they're on the air," Paterson said. "So we said to them, ‘Why don't we have a public discussion that will be covered by the media, and we can discuss the dispute that we're having over the reimbursement formula? Wouldn't that be the professional, adult way to handle this, instead of these shrill commercials and parading out people symbolically to make a point?' That was our suggestion. They declined."

Raske said in a statement yesterday that such an event would be a "distraction" and a "staged event."

Paterson continued: "The use of this medium to promote fear and anxiety, to promote the idea that we're closing down emergency rooms and the employees will be laid off—by changing the reimbursement rate? Are we kidding ourselves? That's why. So look, if anybody has some money to go on the air, I'd be happy to go on the air."

I asked him whether it would be a prudent investment to spend some of the $4.8 million his campaign had on hand as of last month to counteract the ads, similar to what Eliot Spitzer did in the face of a similar blitz. Administration officials previously declined to do so.

"Governor Spitzer put about $5 to 7 million in ads. The disparity between what he had, and the amount of money the other side has, they ran his campaign fund down to $2 million. He tried that, but he could not match the resources that they had, and believe me if he couldn't, I couldn't," Paterson said.

He then offered a glimpse of what the carrot might look like in health care negotiations, elaborating on his commitment yesterday to use "a lot" of the increased federal Medicaid support to bridge his proposed cuts.

"I would say that proportionally, the stimulus assistance to education should at least be matched by our vesting resources in health care," Paterson said. "In other words, whatever the percentage is that we're alleviating reductions in education, we should do that also, similarly, for health care." Paterson Responds to Health Attacks, But Says He Won’t Go the Spitzer Route