The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday agreed to grant New York State $8 billion of the $10 billion Medicaid waiver that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had been asking for since 2012 to support hospital overhauls, expanded primary medical care and save struggling Brooklyn Hospitals, such as Interfaith Medical Center in Bed-Stuy.
"It's not everything New York asked for, but it is a generous amount," Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "This large amount of money should help all of New York, both upstate and downstate, with both its budgetary challenges and hospital needs."
However, specific terms and conditions for the waiver still need to be finalized, and the state will be asked to meet ongoing requirements in order to receive the funding, said an HHS spokeswoman.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries who, along with a handful of state and city officials, had been lobbying the federal government to release the funds as an emergency measure to save Interfaith, called the decision by federal officials a tremendous victory.
But he added, "It is now important to make sure that the billions of dollars that will be made available to New York State are spent in the communities that need it most."
One of Interfaith's earliest advocates, City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, also cautioned that although the waiver's approval represents a big step forward, a lot of questions remain about how and where the money will be spent.
"Excuse me for not rushing to have a party, but there's nowhere where it's detailed where the money will be allocated," Cornegy said. "That $8 billion is statewide, and we haven't gotten a firm commitment that the money will be spent in Brooklyn.
"So we have to continue for our voices to be heard, because the next round of deliberations will begin very quickly in reference to allocation."
Cornegy added that it would seem like a "no-brainer," given the years-long fight by the community calling on the waiver's approval to save Interfaith.
"But I've seen more ridiculous things happen," Cornegy said. "I just don't' want to be back at this again in a year if the money doesn't come to us."