Editorial Roundup: New York

Advance Media New York. August 5, 2022,

Editorial: Finally, Upstate, Crouse invite CNY into merger discussion

After months of “radio silence,” SUNY Upstate Medical University will hold two public forums later this month to explain why it wants to acquire Crouse Hospital. We applaud this long overdue step to inform Central New Yorkers about a deal that, if completed, will reshape how we get our healthcare for years to come.

The hospitals announced in April they are linking up to create a hospital system controlling 71% of admissions in Syracuse and $2.3 billion in annual revenue. The merger will have a direct impact on 13,000 employees and many more thousands of patients who rely on the hospitals for routine family medical care, cancer and heart attack treatment, and delivering our babies.

Up to now, the public has had extraordinarily little say in the matter. Upstate and Crouse have not revealed any financial details of the transaction or explained its impact on the vital services they provide.

Lawyers had advised hospital officials to stay mum while the state Department of Health considers their merger. That’s not the posture we expect from a taxpayer-funded state entity. We’re glad to see Upstate has recognized it owes the community more transparency about this momentous deal.

The state’s takeover of a private hospital will leave Central New Yorkers with only one other hospital system to choose from, St. Joseph’s Health. Upstate acquired Community General Hospital a decade ago.

We have many questions about how the merger will affect healthcare quality; access to care; cost to patients and insurers; the range of services that will be offered locally; employment; medical education; and, ultimately, state taxpayers.

Up to now, the public has had extraordinarily little say in the matter. Upstate and Crouse have not revealed any financial details of the transaction or explained its impact on the vital services they provide.

Lawyers had advised hospital officials to stay mum while the state Department of Health considers their merger. That’s not the posture we expect from a taxpayer-funded state entity. We’re glad to see Upstate has recognized it owes the community more transparency about this momentous deal.

The state’s takeover of a private hospital will leave Central New Yorkers with only one other hospital system to choose from, St. Joseph’s Health. Upstate acquired Community General Hospital a decade ago.

We have many questions about how the merger will affect healthcare quality; access to care; cost to patients and insurers; the range of services that will be offered locally; employment; medical education; and, ultimately, state taxpayers.

Health policy experts have raised these and many other issues in a stream of stories by staff writer James T. Mulder. They and elected officials also have questioned the need for so much secrecy surrounding the merger. We concur. More transparency is needed.

The experts quoted in our coverage largely agree that a merger with Upstate would stabilize Crouse’s precarious finances. Crouse lost $12 million between 2016 and 2018 and asked the federal government to take over its underfunded pension plan. Crouse’s $9 million surplus in 2020 was due to an infusion of pandemic relief money.

The merger might be a good idea for other reasons, too. Or, as critics charge, it could reduce patient choice, raise prices and eliminate jobs due to efficiencies of scale. It’s impossible to judge in an information vacuum. The public forums are a start in filling that void. We urge stakeholders to take advantage of this opportunity to participate.

Believe it or not, public hearings are not required when hospitals merge (though nothing prevents it). To remedy this lack of transparency, the state Legislature passed a law this past session that requires hospitals proposing mergers to obtain independent assessments showing how the changes will affect low-income, racial and ethnic minorities and other vulnerable consumers. The law doesn’t take effect until next summer — likely after this deal is done.

Central New Yorkers need public scrutiny of the Upstate-Crouse merger now. And now they’ll get some.

There may be more to know. On behalf of you, our readers, Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard has asked to see the certificate of need Upstate filed with the state Health Department explaining the rationale for the merger. We also want to see the “Certificate of Public Advantage” application to the state. If granted, the COPA would shield the merger from federal antitrust scrutiny.

Upstate has said it needs more time to respond to our Freedom of Information Law requests. We urge hospital officials to release the documents to allow for a more informed and robust community discussion of the hospital merger proposal.

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Auburn Citizen. August 10, 2022.

Editorial: Make sure NY road salt mandate doesn’t backfire on taxpayers

As good as the intentions behind it may be, a “buy American” effort by the state of New York may end up unfairly biting taxpayers.

The Buy American Salt Act mandates that rock salt used for treating roads during the winter must be purchased from U.S. suppliers. It has been passed by both the Assembly and Senate and at this point awaits the signature of Gov. Kathy Hochul.

But we hope the Hochul administration will take a hard look at it first to make sure municipalities won’t break their budgets conforming to a law that some fear may be too restrictive, given fluctuations in supplies and prices in the domestic and foreign markets.

The law says that “any department or agency purchasing rock salt must purchase American mined or hand harvested salt.” To be fair, there were amendments made to allow some flexibility, and the mandate will be “subject to waiver and other provisions,” but the Buffalo News reports that some highway superintendents are concerned that the language may be too vague to allow them to make the best purchasing choices.

It’s a fine idea to support American made, but if this rock salt mandate is the least bit convoluted or inflexible, it could really hurt taxpayers if their municipality gets stuck in a contract for road salt that costs a lot more than it ordinarily would.

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New York Post. August 10, 2022.

Editorial: Gov. Hochul will fight for criminals, but not everyday New Yorkers

With crime raging across the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul just showed her true priorities by signing legislation to purge the word “inmate” from state law.

It’s not merely abuse of the English language to substitute the ridiculously cumbersome “incarcerated person” for a perfectly fine term (that’s even gender-neutral!). It’s a pander to the same sentiments that gave us the botched criminal-justice “reforms” that fuel soaring crime: Albany’s still worrying about criminals’ feelings.

And as The Post reports, the city’s not the only victim: Upstate is suffering, too.

Rochester’s mayor declared a gun-crime emergency as shooting deaths leapt 26% through June 30 over last year. More recent incidents include the hideous ambush-murder of a veteran cop. And the city’s emergency rooms are overwhelmed as it cruises toward record-high homicides.

Syracuse’s jump in shootings was nearly 23%. In Binghamton, 80%. In Troy, 100% — and murders have tripled.

Yet Hochul chooses this moment to sign the no-“inmate” bill. Was she looking for a distraction after falling flat by pretending that judges are the only remaining problem in the criminal-justice system?

Embracing this empty progressive posturing is taking a side — and it’s not law-abiding New Yorkers’. A crime-ridden state wants real action, not Orwellian gibberish.

As each week passes, the governor makes the case for her tough-on-crime GOP opponent Lee Zeldin more and more clearly. New Yorkers, upstate and down, should remember that come November.

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