Counties like Collins’ push to relieve locals of paying towards Medicaid

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 March 2017 at 11:09 am

Medicaid, a health insurance program for poor residents, accounts for about half of the county tax levy

Chris Collins

Leaders from counties in New York are excited by a proposal by Congressman Chris Collins that would no longer require a local contribution to cover the Medicaid program.

In Orleans County that would cut the county property tax in half, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer.

About half of the $16.7 million in county taxes goes towards Medicaid, a health insurance program for poor and disabled residents.

The county’s current tax rate is $9.86 per $1,000 of assessed property in 2017. If the state took over the county share of Medicaid, the county tax rate could be reduced to about $5. That would save a property owner with an $80,000 house about $400 a year.

Collins, a former county executive in Erie County, wants to see counties in New York freed from paying towards Medicaid, with that cost picked up the state.

Collins is proposing that change as part of a Republican push to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Kathy Hochul

Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor who lost a re-election bid for Congress to Collins, has fired back at Collins’ proposal, saying it would be costly for the state.

The counties used to pay 25 percent of Medicaid’s cost in New York. The state has capped the county share, which is now about 13 percent, Hochul said.

The state also has allowed counties to collect an extra penny in sales tax to help pay for Medicaid.

In addition to shifting $2.3 billion from county share to the state, the Republican plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act would result in lost federal funds and jeopardize hospitals, Hochul said.

“This ill-conceived plan would cost his home state approximately $2.3 billion,” Hochul said in a statement last Friday to the media. “Unbelievably, that’s on top of the cost of the Republican Affordable Care Act repeal plan – another $2.4 billion. Translation: Rep. Collins is proposing a tax increase on New Yorkers to the tune of $4.7 billion. This one-two punch would destroy all the hard work the Governor and Legislature have accomplished in the last six years to lower taxes across the board and achieve the lowest spending increases in recorded history. New Yorkers will be at risk of losing their healthcare, hospitals will be forced to lay off workers, and our vulnerable elderly will find it much harder to afford nursing home care.”

Few states require counties to pay towards Medicaid. It is a prime factor in New York’s higher property taxes, compared to most states, according to the New York State Association of Counties.

NYSAC issued its own response to the Collins proposal, and was critical of Hochul’s rebuke of the plan.

“The federal legislation introduced by Congressman Collins attempts to do what the State has been politically unwilling or unable to do,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario. “It provides real mandate relief for counties, so that counties can begin to reduce property taxes in the State.”

County leaders agree that property taxes are too high in New York, especially compared to other states, Acquario said.

The counties in New York contribute $7.5 billion to Medicaid, he said. In most states, the federal and state governments split the cost.

“We are disappointed that the State’s Lt. Governor, who has been a friend to counties, would oppose an action that would reduce property taxes and take a position against the state’s county government partners,” Acquario said. “The Governor’s administration can’t have it both ways. They cannot keep shifting costs to counties and force us to continue paying for their programs on the hand, and then demand lower property taxes on the other.”

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