Wade Norwood
Wade Norwood

Common Ground Health CEO Wade Norwood has been appointed to the New York State Medicaid Redesign Team II, an advisory group charged with finding $2.5 billion in Medicaid savings in 2021, with recurring savings in subsequent years.

Medicaid is the government insurance program that covers people who cannot afford health care, are disabled or require nursing home care. New York’s roughly $75 billion Medicaid program is a key contributor to the state’s largest budget crisis in a decade.

“My hope is that we will wind up seeing this effort not just as a green eyeshade conversation about money, but as an opportunity to strengthen the delivery of care, particularly for the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Norwood, who will represent the needs of residents of the Finger Lakes region and the Southern Tier.

“Not all expenses should be treated the same,” cautioned Norwood. For example, he draws a sharp distinction between increasing costs for transportation and those for prescription drugs. The former has expanded access to critical care for those who can least afford it, while the latter is driven in part by price increases in pharmaceuticals.

That distinction highlights the wide gap between investment and waste, Norwood explained: “If we invest in the health domain, what we save in criminal justice, what we save in unemployment, and what we save in human services will more than offset that investment.”

As a member of the first Medicaid Redesign Team in 2011, Norwood has reason to be optimistic about the process. That effort led to community-level collaborations and changes in the state’s healthcare system that increased access, improved care and helped bend the cost curve. Medicaid costs were increasing about 10% a year before the initial redesign effort but dropped to about 3% afterward, said Norwood. MRT I also laid the foundation for the state’s Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program, which has increased workforce training and funded health care innovation across the state.

“We have found that collaboration, informed by good data, is the way to drive innovation. I am heartened to see that through MRT II, Gov. Cuomo has convened a multi-stakeholder table and is providing us with the data and the charge we need to be innovative,” Norwood said.

This time around, Norwood will be focused on new research showing that the effects of poverty on health are devastating to urban, rural and suburban communities. He will be an advocate for regional health improvement efforts and will seek to best support the important work of county governments.

Recent minimum wage increases have driven cost increases in the health care sector, but that driver has to be understood as a way to support health improvement through poverty elimination, Norwood said.

“The impact of being poor on people’s health is real, and it is not just their physical health, but their mental and emotional health,” he added.

Though many questions persist—among them, how best to improve program oversight and address an aging population—the MRT II must be efficient in its work. Cost-saving recommendations are due to the governor by the end of March.

“My hope is that the conversation we're having about Medicaid redesign will not be truncated by the budget process,” said Norwood, “but will persist and allow for the voices of the state to come to the table to think about what we need to do to do this right.”