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Proposal designed to phase out county Medicaid costs

by jmaloni
Thu, Sep 29th 2011 02:00 pm

Nearly every state and county elected leader from across Western New York stood together with the New York State Association of Counties on Wednesday to announce a new legislative proposal designed to provide meaningful mandate relief through a multi-year phase-out of the county share of the state's Medicaid program.

The proposal provides for an eight-year gradual state takeover of the full financial costs of Medicaid, which are currently financed at the local level through property taxes.

"Right now our county budgets are pre-determined by state mandates. This year, statewide county taxes will fund more than $7.3 billion in Medicaid alone. That money goes from the homeowners and businesses in our communities to Albany to pay for one single state program," said NYSAC President Mary Pat Hancock, chairwoman of the Genesee County Legislature. "The only way to reduce property taxes is to reduce state mandates, and we need to start with Medicaid."

Medicaid is the single largest mandate paid for with the property tax. The seven Western New York counties combined pay New York state $320 million a year for Medicaid. That's $26 million a month or nearly $6 million a week.

The proposal being sponsored by senators Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Erie, and Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Westchester, would phase out local taxes from the financing of this federal health care program, which is now funded at $53 billion a year in New York. All Western New York's senators and assemblymembers have indicated they will cosponsor the bill.

"Our counties are facing unprecedented fiscal challenges. We need mandate relief. The prolonged recession has both reduced our sales tax revenues and increased demand for local services," said William Ross, chairman of the Niagara County Legislature. "We are hard pressed to deliver property tax relief until we have meaningful mandate relief coming out of Albany."

The new legislation takes advantage of savings from the Medicaid spending cap provision enacted in this year's state budget to help finance the takeover. Additionally, the timing in the bill is aligned with the federal Affordable Care Act, which provides an opportunity for the state to restructure Medicaid in a way that standardizes services, reduces costs and improves patient outcome.

"Aligning fiscal accountability with program responsibility will both improve outcomes and lower costs," said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario.

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