The rapidly increasing cost of medical treatment and the inadequacy of health care have created "one of the worst moral dilemmas and challenges that we have," according to Daniel J. Walsh, president of the Business Council of New York State.
Hospital costs, Medicaid problems and unaffordable health insurance have made medical care one of this year's most controversial issues, Walsh told about 80 people Wednesday at a luncheon sponsored by the three Chambers of Commerce in Niagara County and by the Niagara County Business Association.
Walsh is a former Democratic majority leader of the State Assembly.
"New York's $11 billion Medicaid system is the most expensive of its kind in the nation," Walsh said. "It costs three times as much per capita as Medicaid in California. But our Medicaid program does not help many people who truly need assistance. And those who do get care may find it inadequate because most doctors do not accept Medicaid payments.
"The taxpayers and the users of Medicaid deserve a better deal."
Inappropriate use of health resources "is an even bigger part of the problem," Walsh continued. He said many long-term patients are being treated in unnecessarily expensive hospitals and nursing homes.
"We've got to redesign the system so it does a better job of placing those people in alternative levels of care such as home health care and adult homes," Walsh said.
He said the high cost of health insurance is a major reason why 2.5 million people in New York State have no such insurance.
"Employers in New York State will not be able to continue to pay for health insurance for their employees" if the cost continues to escalate, Walsh said.
He added that the state must decide this year whether to continue the current system under which hospitals are paid a certain amount for each illness or emergency, regardless of how much it actually costs to treat the patient. He said some hospitals "are facing real financial problems" with the present system, "but many others are not."
Walsh said any change in the hospital reimbursement system should "target any new money to those hospitals that truly need help," and not to the others.
Walsh said almost one out of every eight dollars spent in New York State is spent for health care, making it one of the most important issues to be confronted this year by the State Legislature.
He said the Business Council would encourage Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature to hold down spending instead of raising taxes. He pointed out that much of the state's budget is spent to aid local governments.
"Tell your local officials they have to spend better, not more, because Albany cannot continue sending more and more money each year," he concluded.
The luncheon was at the Best Western Red Jacket Inn, 7001 Buffalo Ave.