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Senators urge delay of clinic cuts

Upstate New York health clinics soon may have to bear the brunt of a $65 million funding cutback under new regulations from the Bush administration.

The cutback is aimed at drastically reducing Medicaid reimbursements to hospital outpatient clinics, teaching hospitals, dental clinics, hospices and dialysis centers across the state.

This could leave some clinics with little or no federal funding at all for dialysis services, vaccinations and primary care for children, among other services.

Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Thursday that they plan to be aggressive in pushing a bill to delay the cutback by six months.

The announcement comes after both senators sent President Bush a letter voicing their joint disapproval and demanding the new policy be delayed from its proposed implementation date of Oct. 1.

Schumer's and Clinton's proposed delay under the Preserving Access to Healthcare Act of 2008 could temporarily save 18 Western New York health clinics from being subject to the new regulation. For some, the rule would mean a loss in half their income and caseload.

The clinics in Western New York would lose a total of $8.6 million under the new regulation.

"This inexplicable rule is a punch in the gut to upstate New York's health clinics, dialysis centers, dental clinics and so much more," Schumer said.

"Make no doubt about it, we will keep pushing and prodding to make sure we protect New York's health care facilities and the much-needed services they provide."

Clinton said given the situation the American economy is facing, the government should be doing all it can to preserve access to family planning, health centers, mental and dental care. "But this rule is a roadblock for the people who are most in need," she said.

"I will continue to fight to see that this absurd rule does not undermine our ability to deliver much-needed health care services to New Yorkers," Clinton said.

e-mail: plucas@buffnews.com

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