ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Health care interests are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to political parties as New York’s Legislature gears up for fights over how to contain soaring Medicaid costs, state records show.
The contributions are among others disclosed by politicians and political committees this week to comply with a Jan. 15 deadline for reporting campaign finance activity since mid-July.
The Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents hospitals and other health care systems, has donated at least $275,000 to Assembly Democrats, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans since mid-July, according to campaign filings. That includes a $50,000 donation to the New York State Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee on Jan. 10.
Hospitals are among the institutions watching closely to see how Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature deal with a $6 billion deficit fueled by the rising cost of the Medicaid program, which helps pay for health care for the poor. Any attempts to trim spending by slashing the program’s payments to health care providers could be financially damaging to hospitals and doctors.
The latest contributions came days after the state’s New Year’s Eve announcement of a 1% cut in Medicaid payments affecting hospitals, nursing homes and home-care providers. That cut partly reversed rate increases granted in 2018 for some providers.
The health care industry is anticipating further cuts and calling on lawmakers and Democrats to consider cost savings they have proposed this week instead of cutting Medicaid payments or increasing insurance taxes.
Cuomo, a Democrat, is scheduled to release a budget proposal Tuesday with potential solutions. As part of his State of the State address, Cuomo also proposed programs aimed at lowering medication costs by regulating some drug prices and possibly importing medications from Canada.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers and health insurers have also given money to Legislative political committees since the summer.
Caremark RX, a pharmacy benefits company, gave $25,000 to the New York State Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee and $50,000 to the New York Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. Cigna Health and Life Insurance contributed $25,000 to the same committees, while Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America contributed $50,000.
Unlimited contributions from big-pocketed donors can flow into New York politics from the so-called housekeeping accounts of the Democratic and Republican parties.
New York law allows corporations, individuals and groups to give unlimited amounts of money to parties through those accounts. Parties are supposed to use those funds for “ordinary activities that are not for the express purpose of promoting the candidacy of specific candidates.”
Government groups including the New York Public Interest Research Group have long criticized housekeeping funds for vague accounting rules and giving political parties a way to avoid contribution limits.
“Currently, there are no restrictions on the size of these donations,” reads the nonpartisan governmental reform group’s report released in September. “Given the inextricable link between party committees and elected officials, strict limits should be put in place.”
The committee for Assembly Democrats reported raising at least half a million dollars for its housekeeping account since last July from donors that also included telecommunication companies and beer and soda manufacturers.
Sports betting companies FanDuel and Draftkings, which want New York to finally legalize online sports bets, each gave $20,000 to the Assembly Democrats housekeeping committee.
Anheuser Busch Cos. contributed $95,000 last week to Democratic and Republican housekeeping accounts, according to filings. The donations came as Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a 2020 legislative agenda that called for more state investment in alcohol businesses and allowing the sale of alcohol in movie theaters.
Cuomo also did well in the last campaign finance reporting period, disclosing that his political committee raised another $4.5 million and spent nearly $1 million well ahead of his potential 2022 reelection campaign.
His donors since last July include billionaire investor Ronald Perelman, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and major construction companies in Manhattan.
He reported paying nearly $36,000 to the Tailwater Lodge for a meeting in October, $40,000 on polling to a New York firm in August, over $67,000 to J.W. Marriott Essex House for a December fundraiser in New York and roughly $75,000 to a New York catering and events company for a July fundraiser.
Other costs include over $48,000 for several charter flights last fall, and $6,550 to a Brooklyn artist who drew up a fanciful, maritime-themed poster for Cuomo for his 2020 State of the State address.