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The multibillion-dollar health care program that helps fund everything from medical colleges to insurance for poor children may run a shortfall by the end of the state fiscal year, Comptroller Alan Hevesi warned Thursday.

Hevesi said expenditures from the program, known as the Health Care Reform Act, have been increasing at a much faster rate than its revenues. The program's fund balance through August 2004 was $817 million, Hevesi said. Based on the annual spending levels in the program from September through March, when the state fiscal year ends, the state may have to dip into other revenue sources for as much as $400 million to cover the program's cost, according to Hevesi.

He said the state's expectations that there will be $1.2 billion available through the conversion of Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield into a for-profit entity might not pan out by the end of the 2004-05 fiscal year because of ongoing litigation. The program is primarily funded through cigarette taxes and assessments on health care institutions.

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