City & State: Cuomo Friend Replaced by Cuomo Donor on Medicaid Task Force
Laura Nahmias

What happened to Jeffrey Sachs?

The healthcare consultant, whose tenure on his friend Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team was marked by controversy, has been replaced by Joseph Belluck, a top trial attorney and Cuomo donor who gave more than $60,000 to the governor this month.

Cuomo named Sachs as one of the original 27 members of the Medicaid task force last year, but he drew fire from good government groups after [the New York Times reported] he represented healthcare clients while advocating for changes in state health policy.

New York’s former ethics watchdog, the Commission on Public Integrity, determined in June that Sachs did not have to register as a lobbyist. When new members of the Medicaid Redesign Team were announced in August, however, most of the initial members stayed on the task force. Sachs was not among them.

A spokesman for Sachs declined to comment.

As the Times noted, a number of the Medicaid team’s decisions directly affect several of Sachs’ clients, including Mount Sinai Medical Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, Montefiore Medical Center and Maimonides Medical Center.

One of Sachs’ clients, Brooklyn Hospital Center, has been named the lead hospital for a merger with two failing Brooklyn Hospitals, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and Interfaith Medical Center.

The Medicaid group’s core-membership of about 30 people was implemented last year by executive order, but has since evolved into a structure of work groups. Belluck now leads one of those work groups addressing medical malpractice reform.

Critics of the Medicaid redesign process last year said trial attorneys had no representation, and a proposal to limit awards in medical malpractice cases was the only one of the task force’s 79 recommendations that did not become law.

Belluck donated $21,900 to Cuomo in 2008  and $34,000 in 2009. He has also given $51,900 to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over a period of three years – part of more than $290,000 he has given to New York candidates since 2008.

[UPDATE] Belluck is a partner at Belluck & Fox, a personal injury law firm that also lists Senate Minority Leader John Sampson as “of counsel.” And he is a trustee on the board of the State University of New York, which operates medical centers. (H/T Jimmy Vielkind)

Belluck did not respond to a request for comment.