Hawley and Assembly GOP favor shifting county Medicaid costs to state

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 March 2018 at 8:06 am

Provided photo: State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, left, joins GOP members in announcing a proposal for the state to assume county’s Medicaid costs.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) joined his Republican colleagues in Albany on Monday to announce a plan that would pave the way for significant local tax reductions for upstate residents. The plan would entail New York State taking over the county share of Medicaid expenses over a 10-year period.

Orleans County spends about $8.5 million annually in its share for the Medicaid program. That accounts for about half of the county tax levy.

“These cradle-to-grave welfare programs are bleeding our state dry,” Hawley said. “Many state leaders do not realize that a large portion of these state-imposed costs are mandated expenses on counties which are then passed down to residents in the form of higher property and local taxes. The bottom line is that Albany should pay for what Albany spends instead of passing the buck down to local governments.”

New York’s Medicaid budget is about $70 billion, more than one-third of the entire state budget. In federal fiscal year 2016, New York spent more on Medicaid than Texas and Florida combined, despite the fact that the combined populations of these states was approximately 46.1 million to New York’s 19.7 million.

Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, last year proposed the “Collins Amendment” to shift the $2.3 billion in Medicaid costs paid by upstate counties to the state. Collins proposed it as part of repealing and replacing Obamacare, which ultimately didn’t get enough votes in Congress.

New York is unusual in 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 last March. “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 have spared upstate counties from paying towards Medicaid, but not New York City, where taxpayers there contribute about $5 billion annually towards Medicaid.

The State Assembly proposal called for the state to assume the New York City Medicaid costs over 20 years.

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.

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