County Legislature to vote today on resolution backing Collins’ plan to shift local Medicaid costs to state

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 March 2017 at 1:37 pm

Orleans pays $8.5 million annually to Medicaid program, accounting for about half of county tax burden

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature is expected to vote today in support of the “Collins Amendment,” a recent push by Congressman Chris Collins (R-Clarence) in the proposed new healthcare law that would shift the county share of Medicaid costs in New York to the state.

The move would save upstate counties about $2.3 billion, and would spare Orleans County $8,542,626, which is what the county currently pays towards Medicaid. That represents 52.3 percent of the county’s $16,322,820 tax levy, according to the New York Association of Counties, which supports the push to rid the counties of paying towards Medicaid.

New York is unusual is requiring counties to help fund Medicaid, a health insurance program for poor residents. The New York counties and New York City pay $7.5 billion to the program each year. In the other 49 states, only $2.2 billion is contributed by local governments for Medicaid.

“Year after year, Albany’s leadership relies on counties to foot the bill for New York State’s out-of-control Medicaid costs,” Congressman Collins said in a statement. “Enough is enough. This amendment will stop Albany from forcing its unfunded mandate down the throats of taxpayers, and help counties lower the property tax burden on hardworking families.

The Collins amendment would spare upstate counties from paying towards Medicaid, but not New York City, where taxpayers there contribute about $5 billion annually towards Medicaid.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state would struggle to pick up the increase from the counties, and hospitals, many already struggling to survive financially, would be forced to close with reduced revenue as part of President Donald Trump’s healthcare bill, called the American Health Care Act.

Cuomo faulted Collins and the Trump administration for pushing the cost shift as a move to secure more votes from upstate Republican lawmakers.

‘This amendment will stop Albany from forcing its unfunded mandate down the throats of taxpayers, and help counties lower the property tax burden on hardworking families.’ – Congressman Chris Collins

Tom Reed, a Republican congressman for the Southern Tier, said the Collins amendment convinced him to vote in favor of the Trump healthcare plan. Reed, in a news release on Tuesday, said the amendment would be a big tax lift in upstate.

“It’s time for the state to get its act together and quit putting the burden on upstate families and businesses,” Reed said in a statement.

Besides Reed and Collins, other Republicans in New York’s GOP congressional delegation have backed the “Medicaid Local Share Limitation” proposal, including John Faso (NY-19), Claudia Tenney (NY-22) and Elise Stefanik (NY-21).

The County Legislature’s resolution states that property taxes are high in upstate, and eliminating the local share for Medicaid would provide much needed local tax relief.

“Unfunded mandates such as Medicaid make up the largest portion of our county budget placing immense pressure on our ability to provide the services our residents expect and deserve at a reasonable cost,” the resolution states. “This amendment will allow us to be able to provide much needed tax relief to our constituents and provide more funds to improving our aging infrastructure.”

The Legislature meets at 4:30 p.m. today in the legislative chamber at the County Clerks’ Building, 3 South Main St.

Currently, New York State ranks second highest in the nation in both Medicaid spending per year ($60 billion) and spending per Medicaid beneficiary (44 percent more than the national average), according to Collins.

In addition, while New York State accounts for only 6 percent of the national population, New York accounts for 11 percent of total Medicaid spending. The outsized portion of the Medicaid burden counties are being forced to pay is creating a significant financial hardship, Collins said.

Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor, said in a statement on Tuesday that Collins should have the federal government pick up the difference from the counties, not the state. She called Collins, “Mr. Trump’s bag man,” using the amendment to get votes for an unpopular health care proposal.

“If Mr. Collins wants to buy votes let the federal government pick up the share rather that the people of New York,” Hochul said. “Local county taxes or state taxes New Yorkers still pay. One way or another, it is still coming out of New York taxpayers’ pockets.  Let Mr. Collins help New York State and his district by having the federal government pay – that is why he is in Washington. He could easily help pay by reducing the $150 billion tax cut to the richest 1 percent of Americans or buying one less tank from Trump’s record defense budget. Why make the people of his district pay for his politics. We do know Mr. Collins is adept at corrupt financial schemes but this is the ultimate insider trading scam.”

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