By MICHAEL GORMLEY
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – The hospital lobbyist running television ads against Gov. David Paterson’s proposed health care funding cuts was called “chicken” in radio ads Wednesday from another group that says the TV spots are dishonest.
A group called Housing Works is running the ads hitting Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske for refusing to publicly debate Paterson’s health commissioner on the cuts rather than run a million dollar TV campaign that has helped pummel the governor in opinion polls.
The low-budget ad features the sound of a clucking chicken intended to be Raske answering the phone.
“Word around town is you’re a chicken,” the narrator says, to the sound of more clucking. “The governor’s plan would expand and improve health care while saving millions of dollars.”
The ad, carried on the Housing Works Web site with Raske illustrated as a chicken, concludes: “Ken, don’t be a chicken.”
Hospital association spokesman Brian Conway says the radio ads are a stunt and ill informed.
“By their actions today, Housing Works may have tarnished any chance of being taken seriously in New York’s health care debate,” said Conway, vice president for media relations at GNYHA. “While they’re creating offensive caricatures and staging ill-informed protests, Ken Raske is in Albany today doing the serious work of fighting for a budget that protects hospitals, nursing homes, and home care from drastic funding cuts.”
“Obviously, we’re kind of the little ant going up against the elephant,” said Charles King, president of Housing Works, which provides services to people with AIDS. “But we feel very strongly real Medicaid reform is essential. We also feel the campaign that has been running has been dishonest and disingenuous … it’s not like the (Medicaid) program is shrinking.”
Paterson has called for changes in Medicaid that he believes will reduce the growth of hospital costs as patients are shifted to less expensive outpatient and home care. Despite billions of dollars in federal stimulus money provided through Medicaid, Paterson still wants some of his Medicaid changes to stick because he says the state can’t afford this fastest growing part of its budget.
The hospital group says the funding measure will cut aid and force local hospitals to close and reduce services. The hospital lobby also notes that the program has grown because the Legislature and past governors have made the plan richer and available to more people.
One of the TV ads particularly upset Paterson, who is legally blind. It featured a blind man asking Paterson, “Why are you doing this to me?” The ad has since been pulled.
Two weeks ago, when asked by a reporter if Raske was being “chicken” for refusing to debate, Paterson paused and said: “Nah, not Ken!”
(Ringing phone answered by a chicken): Bwak, bwak?
Male announcer: Ken, Ken Raske? President of the Greater New York Hospital Association? Is that you?
Chicken: Bwak, bwak.
Announcer: Ken, New York State health commissioner here. Word around town is people are calling you a chicken!
Announcer: People say you turned down my invitation to a public debate about Medicaid reform because you’re afraid New Yorkers will find out the truth.
Chicken: Bwak, bwak..
Announcer: They say you don’t want to acknowledge what the New York Times, the New York Daily News and the New York Post all say is true. Governor Paterson’s Medicaid reforms make sense. The governor’s plan will expand and improve health care will saving billions of dollars.
Chicken: Bwak, bwak, bwak. (etc.)
Announcer: Don’t let the Greater New York Hospital Association stand in the way of Medicaid reform. For more information, call 347-473-7418. Ken, don’t be a chicken.