BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Erie County funding for the Erie County Medical Center has skyrocketed 140 percent beyond its budgeted share of $16.2 million. News 4 Senior Correspondent Rich Newberg has learned that the county will have to find an additional projected $22.7 million to cover ballooning costs for ECMC patients who are uninsured or underinsured.
The State Health Department has indicated an initial immediate payment of $5.3 million may be necessary, according to sources. Before the year is over, an additional $17.4 million may be required to cover the county's agreement with ECMC.
The Erie County Legislature and Fiscal Stability Authority have been informally notified by the county budget office.
The increased costs could have a direct impact on the county's negotiations with public employee unions now without contracts. Representatives from the Erie County Budget Office attended negotiating sessions with CSEA Local 812, and Teamsters, representing Erie County Sheriff's deputies, explaining the dilemma.
CSEA Local 812 President Joan Bender told Newberg, "Hopefully there can be some adjustment made, and we will continue to negotiate."
The current agreement with ECMC was reached under the administration of Chris Collins on December 31, 2009. Bender believes Collins underestimated what the county's potential costs would be.
Collins tells Newberg he always knew the county might have to pay more than $16.2 million, but that his administration was able to prevent Erie County from being responsible for all losses incurred by the hospital. He added the agreement also removed the county from making bond payments for the hospital. "It was the best deal the county could ever have negotiated," he said.
ECMC's Vice President for Market Planning Tom Quatroche tells Newberg, "ECMC has committed to the County Executive that we will develop a financial solution for the county that fits within federal guidelines." Newberg has learned that ECMC and Erie County officials are talking about possibly spreading payment out over a period of years.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz verified the discussions. "I have received assurances from ECMC CEO Jody Lomeo that the issues associated with ECMC will not negatively impact Erie County's 2012 budget." He added, "We still don't know what the final costs are going to be for 2012 and won't know
until September or October of this year."
Erie County currently has an unreserved fund balance of $83 million. That is accumulated surplus money in the bank. Some of that money could potentially be used to pay some of the county's liability with ECMC. However $67 million of that fund balance cannot be touched. The county charter mandates that five percent of the county's general fund must stay in the bank.
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