Judge Allows state to remove Soundview Health Center from Medicaid

The lawsuit to keep Soundview Health Center in New York State’s Medicaid program has hit a dead end.

On Thursday, December 22, Bronx Supreme Court Judge Mark Friedlander ruled that he had no authority to overturn the state’s decision to remove Soundview, which was founded by former Senator Pedro Espada, from Medicaid.

Earlier this year, the State Department of Health and Office of the Medicaid Inspector General ruled that Soundview did not have a legitimate Medicaid compliance program. Soundview’s lawyers tried fighting the ruling in court, but Friedlander’s decision effectively ends that battle.

Soundview received approximately $10 million from the Medicaid program last year, and will struggle to stay open without the financial support.

Espada and his son face federal charges for allegedly embezzling money from Soundview, and are scheduled to go on trial in March.

Espada received more bad news on Tuesday, December 27, as a the state’s Legislative Ethics Commission found “reasonable cause” that he broke the law by hiring an uncle as a Senate staffer in 2009. Espada could face additional charges as a result.

Representatives for Soundview, meanwhile, say the chain of clinics will remain open.

“We assert that our patients desperately need and deserve the services provided by Soundview,” board chair Monica Harris-Coleman said in a statement.

Although without Medicaid funding, time is running out on the clinics.

Community Board 9 chair Francisco Gonzalez said that without the five clinics, which include a flagship location on White Plains Road, residents of the district will face a challenge in finding affordable health care.

“This is a devastating loss for the community,” he said. “The Soundview center has been serving the community for more than 30 years. A lot of people depend on the services they provide, because there’s no hospital in the immediate area. It’s a real travesty.”

Gonzalez said the fate of Soundview and the future of health care in the CB 9 area has been a hot topic of discussion in his office.

Soundview claims it serves 20,000 patients on a regular basis.

Espada called the state Ethics Committee’s findings “false from beginning to end.”

Bill Weisbrod can be reached via e-mail at bweisbrod@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394.

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