Espada Vows to Stop State From Shuttering Health Clinic

Former state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. said Thursday that he's seeking a court order to block what he calls the Cuomo administration's "political terrorism" aimed at closing his Bronx health clinic.

The state Health Department released a letter late Wednesday saying it would close Espada's Soundview clinic system in September because of concerns over its governance and its handling of millions of dollars in Medicaid funding.

Espada faces a federal trial in October on charges he misused Medicaid funds to fund a lavish lifestyle.

He told The Associated Press on Thursday that his lawyers are seeking a court-ordered stay of the state's action. He accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration of violating the civil rights of his patients, his clinic and himself.

In a letter to the Bronx clinic's chairman Wednesday, health officials said Comprehensive Community Development Corp., also known as Soundview, has no compliance program as required to verify claims and costs. The letter said state will revoke eligibility Sept. 12 for reimbursement by Medicaid, the state-run health care program for the poor.

Christine Hall-Finney, director of the Department of Health's Division of Provider Relations and Utilization Management, noted that the clinic's Medicaid service delivery is managed by Espada and his son Pedro G. Espada. Both were excluded from participation in the state Medicaid program earlier this year by the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.

The department said Soundview, which operates in one of the state's poorest areas, can still care for patients through private insurance or Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly.

Soundview's board, which includes Espada's relatives, has kept Espada and his son on the payroll since the indictment. Pedro Espada Jr. said they are not paid through Medicaid funds but from collections from private insurance companies.

The ex-senator said the health clinic, where he continues to draw a $225,000 salary, operates on a $14 million annual budget and shouldn't be caught in his political fight because 200 workers could lose their jobs and 20,000 patients could lose their clinic. His son makes about $100,000 a year.

Espada is accused of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on restaurant meals, shows, vacations and a down payment on a Bentley luxury car.

The Democrat was the key figure in the Senate coup of the summer of 2009 that caused gridlock in state government. He created a coalition with the then-minority party Republicans to overthrow his Democratic conference from power. After securing a lucrative leadership post from the Republicans, Espada flipped back to the Democrats for another lucrative leadership post.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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