Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cuomo Health Adviser Has Close Ties To Health Industry/Payroll

Little Andy says the unions and public employees are special interests that must be destroyed in order to make state government work better.

Meanwhile, his chief health adviser is taking gobs of money from the health industry - apparently NOT a special interest in Cuomo's eyes.

Here's the story from the Times:

When Andrew M. Cuomo married Kerry Kennedy in 1990, Jeffrey A. Sachs served as an usher. When Mr. Cuomo’s daughter Michaela was born, he asked Mr. Sachs to be her godfather. When his marriage fell apart years later, Mr. Cuomo stayed in Mr. Sachs’s triplex near the United Nations.

Since Mr. Cuomo’s election as governor last fall, Mr. Sachs, 58, has taken on a powerful role among his health care advisers as the administration confronts crucial decisions, including how to overhaul New York’s $53 billion Medicaid program.

But at the same time, Mr. Sachs, known to many in Albany as “Andrew’s best friend,” is working as a paid consultant to some of the biggest players in the New York health care industry, including Mount Sinai Medical Center, NYU Langone Medical Center and the state’s largest association of nursing homes, all of which have financial interests at stake in the coming Medicaid changes.

Mr. Sachs, whose firm is named Sachs Consulting, has never registered as a lobbyist, which would require him to divulge his clients and fees to the state ethics commission.

Through a spokesman, Mr. Sachs said that none of his contacts with state officials constituted lobbying under state law, which broadly excludes anyone who advises clients on how to influence public policy, among other exceptions.

After inquiries from The New York Times, a spokesman for Mr. Sachs released a statement late Tuesday saying that Mr. Sachs had “frozen all contact on behalf of clients with state officials for the duration of the Cuomo administration.”

Mr. Sachs will remain a health care adviser to the governor, and the spokesman, Jesse Derris, did not rule out Mr. Sachs’s participating, if asked, in general discussions of health care policy.

Mr. Cuomo’s spokesman, Josh Vlasto, issued a statement soon after Mr. Derris, saying, “Nobody in the administration knows his clients, nor could it possibly matter, since Mr. Sachs has said he won’t represent anyone before the state, so the innuendo of the story is totally irrelevant.”

Yeah, it's irrelevant. Look the other, folks. Nothing going on here. Just a friend of Little Andy's helping Little Andy out.

Except people in the KNOW about things don't think so:

The influence Mr. Sachs has been wielding since Mr. Cuomo’s election on Nov. 2 has startled some in the state’s tight-knit health care world.

In December, according to correspondence obtained by The Times, the director of a state-run psychiatry institute said that he was fired after Mr. Sachs, unhappy that the director had clashed with one of his clients, pressured a top state official to dismiss him.

And, as Mr. Sachs advised Mr. Cuomo on his transition and health care policies, state officials have made decisions that surprised many in the health care industry but were favorable to Mr. Sachs’s clients. After inquiries from The Times, the administration abruptly rescinded one of the decisions.

In addition to helping Mr. Cuomo recruit senior staff, Mr. Sachs has quickly emerged as a leader on the governor’s 27-person Medicaid redesign team, the group that is drawing up the governor’s plan to pare billions in spending from the program.

“His membership on the Medicaid team is worrisome to us because he has clients that are not disclosed,” said Judy Wessler, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, a nonprofit group that opposes Mr. Cuomo’s proposed cuts.

Just how corrupt is this Cuomo/Sachs relationship?

This corrupt:

Mr. Sachs was also an early advocate of the “Wisconsin model” of Medicaid, under which the governor would set a target for spending reductions and then appoint a task force of industry stakeholders to apportion the cuts. The approach has political appeal for the governor, in that it entices would-be opponents of spending reductions to participate in the plan rather than protest it. But it also endows the unelected team members with immense power.

Mr. Sachs made recommendations to Mr. Cuomo and his aides about whom to appoint to the Medicaid team, which Mr. Cuomo formed through an executive order in January. During the transition, Mr. Sachs also helped assemble a four-person policy team to begin meeting with state agencies about the best approach to reducing Medicaid spending. The team included James Introne, an executive at ArchCare, the Roman Catholic hospital network, and Bruce E. Feig, an executive deputy commissioner at the state’s Office of Mental Health.

Mr. Sachs knew them both well: Mr. Introne was his former boss and mentor and Mr. Feig his assistant in the Carey administration. Mr. Feig later worked for Sachs Consulting before taking his current job in 2007.

On the recommendation of Mr. Sachs and others, Mr. Cuomo later appointed Mr. Introne, a veteran of state government and large health care organizations, as deputy secretary for health, the top health care policy job in the administration. Mr. Cuomo has also kept Mr. Feig in his job as the No. 2 official at the Office of Mental Health.

While he was helping Mr. Cuomo assemble his health care staff, Mr. Sachs’s name arose in an unusual personnel matter, one that held great interest for one of his clients, NYU Langone Medical Center.

For at least a year, NYU Langone had had strained relations with Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, a well-known psychiatrist who founded the hospital’s child psychiatry center but left in 2009 to start a competing research and clinical center.

Relations worsened because Dr. Koplewicz, who also served as director of the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, a state-run psychiatric center in Rockland County that also has a research affiliation with NYU, refused to allow NYU to screen those he hired at the institute, among other issues.

During an October meeting between Mr. Sachs and Dr. Koplewicz, Mr. Sachs suggested the doctor resign from the Kline Institute, people briefed on the meeting said. Should he lobby too aggressively to keep his job, Mr. Sachs warned, Mr. Cuomo, then widely expected to win election, might choose to close down the institute.

In a later meeting in December, Michael F. Hogan, state commissioner of mental health, told Dr. Koplewicz that he had been warned by Mr. Sachs that his reappointment by Mr. Cuomo would be jeopardized if Dr. Koplewicz did not resign, according to the people briefed.

Afterward, Dr. Koplewicz wrote Dr. Hogan a letter detailing his accomplishments as director of the institute and complaining of the pressure being exerted by Mr. Sachs.

“As you explained — and I appreciate your candor — you have been pressured by NYU through Jeff Sachs to have me resign as a condition for your reappointment as commissioner of mental health,” Dr. Koplewicz wrote in the letter.

In a response sent the following day, Dr. Hogan did not dispute Dr. Koplewicz’s account but suggested that he had been insufficiently cooperative with NYU and the Office of Mental Health.

“Accordingly, your service as director, Psychiatric Research Institute, will end effective Jan. 13, 2011,” Dr. Hogan wrote.

Dr. Koplewicz and Dr. Hogan both declined to comment, though neither disputed the authenticity of the letters. One day after Dr. Koplewicz was fired, Mr. Cuomo announced Dr. Hogan’s reappointment as commissioner of mental health.

Mr. Vlasto, the Cuomo spokesman, said Dr. Koplewicz’s firing was unrelated to Dr. Hogan’s bid for reappointment.

“Dr. Koplewicz was dismissed after a yearlong saga,” Mr. Vlasto said. “His dismissal had absolutely nothing to do with the reappointment of Commissioner Hogan.”

Mr. Derris, in a separate statement on Tuesday night, said: “Dr. Koplewicz had issues for over a year with his job performance, and lost his position because of it. The implication that Jeff Sachs had anything to do with his dismissal is pure fiction.”

Dr. Koplewicz’s departure shocked some local officials in Rockland County, who had admired his work and pressed administration officials fruitlessly for an explanation.

“I made several phone calls advocating for his continuing in that position, and did not get any kind of response,” Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, a Democrat of Rockland, said.

Ah, yes - whacked from his job because Little Andy's pal wanted him whacked.

Definitely doesn't sound like there's any special interest thing going on there.

Nope - not as long as there is no public employee union involved, of course.

Want more details of this corrupt relationship?


Even as Mr. Sachs was helping shape the incoming administration’s health care team, he was promoting his clients’ private interests.

In December, the Department of Health issued a so-called emergency rule change granting Mount Sinai Hospital of Queens, a Sachs Consulting client for the last eight years, additional Medicaid reimbursements worth millions of dollars.

The hospital had been seeking the rate change for at least five years, officials there said, and it was not clear why it was finally issued during the waning days of the Paterson administration.

But two people with knowledge of the decision said that Mr. Sachs personally phoned state officials, including Lawrence S. Schwartz, the top aide to then-Gov. David A. Paterson, to discuss the hospital money. At that time, Mr. Schwartz was under consideration by Mr. Cuomo for a job in the new administration. Mr. Schwartz now works for Mr. Cuomo as a senior adviser.

Separately, two weeks ago, Mr. Introne ordered the freeze of undisbursed grants under a program intended to encourage efficiencies in New York’s health care system. They included a $62 million disbursement, approved after a two-year review, that would underwrite the planned merger of SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital, a struggling institution in Brooklyn.

The delay startled officials at both hospitals, in part because Mr. Cuomo’s budget, released earlier in the month, had already authorized other financing related to the merger. The decision threatened to imperil the merger, without which LICH would be forced to close. But the delay had one potential beneficiary: Brooklyn Hospital Center, a Sachs client, which stood to absorb most of LICH’s patients should that hospital close down.

The following day, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said that the administration had decided to hold up all the grants as part of a review likely to take two to three weeks. After local officials protested the decision and after inquiries from The Times, the administration announced three days later that the LICH grant would proceed.

Both Mr. Introne and Mr. Sachs declined through spokesmen to say whether they had ever discussed the grants.

This is a pretty devastating article for Cuomo because so far he has been able to play "Holier Than Thou" in his dealings with the political world and smear the assembly, the state senate, the unions and others as "special interests" and "corrupt" while positioning himself as a squeaky clean sheriff ready to clean these cesspools up.

But the truth is much murkier than that, of course.

In point of fact, Cuomo is a special interest himself, wholly owned and operated by the corporate and Wall Street interests that elected him and the Times has just caught one glaring example of this in the figure of Little Andy's best pal Jeffrey Sachs.

How is the Cuomo administration handling the relationship between Little Andy, Jeffrey Sachs and the undisclosed health care industry clients Sachs serves?

By hiding things:

The Cuomo administration appears sensitive about the governor’s relationship with Mr. Sachs. When Mr. Cuomo announced the members of the Medicaid redesign team, Mr. Sachs was identified only as “chairman of the John F. Kennedy Jr. Institute for Work Education,” a nonprofit development organization, omitting his work at Sachs Consulting.

There you have it - Cuomo's favorite health care adviser and pal so close to him that he served as an usher at Cuomo's wedding works for the health care industry from inside the Cuomo administration to screw the public and enrich his health care industry clients.

And Cuomo himself is hiding this poisonous and corrupt relationship.

Shame on you, Little Andy!

Maybe if Jeff Sachs was a teacher or public worker you'd feel more inclined to do something about this, eh?

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