NYC mayor presents $82.2 billion budget, overhauls hospitals

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $82.2 billion budget plan for the 2017 fiscal year on Tuesday, and promised an overhaul of the city’s ailing public hospitals that treat large numbers of undocumented patients.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press conference in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

De Blasio, who hails from progressive circles of the Democratic Party, took office in 2014 after winning a landslide victory on a platform to reduce inequalities in the city.

“At its core, our budget is our roadmap for lifting up communities,” de Blasio said. “The strategic investments we have put to work in every neighborhood, coupled with disciplined fiscal management, are producing real results for New Yorkers.”

De Blasio said the city’s public hospital system, recently rebranded as Health & Hospitals, is facing spiraling costs due to undocumented patients and would see a $1.8 billion deficit by 2020 if the city took no action.

The executive budget dedicates $2 billion to overhauling the $7.5 billion system, which treats around 1.4 million people per year. About a third of its patients are undocumented immigrants and cost the system over $2 billion each year, the mayor said.

Health & Hospitals core revenue from treating poorer patients on federal and state support is under pressure as more private hospitals compete for these patients. That has left the system with a larger share of undocumented patients.

The executive budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 closely tracks a preliminary budget estimate of $82.1 billion the mayor presented in January.

The total budget represents a small increase over the previous year’s $81.7 billion spending plan.

The executive budget increases the city’s reserves by $250 million, bringing its retiree health benefits trust fund to $3.7 billion. General reserves amount to $1 billion and $500 million is allocated to the city’s capital stabilization reserve.

Budget officials said reserves were the highest in the city’s history. The mayor has repeatedly stressed the need to prepare for an economic downtown in which the city would have to “go it alone” with reduced federal and state support.

Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Tom Brown