New York’s counties and New York City are saddled with $8.4 billion annual price tag for Medicaid, a mandate from the state that they cannot afford, according to Bill Samuels, who formed a new advocacy group that is campaigning for the state to take over the local share of the health-care program for the poor and disabled.
Counties in New York are required to pay roughly 15 percent of Medicaid bills and the state covers about 35 percent. The rest is paid by the federal government — about 50 percent in New York and up to 73.4 percent in others, with formulas based on wealth. The county share varies, with higher-poverty counties paying more, according to a new report from EffectiveNY.
No other state passed on such a heavy burden to counties, the report said. In California, $1 billion is passed down. Twenty-six states don’t pass on any Medicaid costs, and twenty-four require counties to pay for administrative costs and, in some cases, small portions of patient costs, the report said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers should focus on relieving counties of the Medicaid burden, rather than adopting “short-sighted and ineffective tax rebates,” the report said. They put a growth cap in place eight years ago. The 2014-15 state budget should include $1 billion to start the full takeover, which would take several years, EffectiveNY recommended.
“In 2014, as in recent years, Governor Cuomo has pledged to assist local property taxpayers. But mailing out rebate checks to voters in an election year does nothing to address the underlying problem. And blaming local leaders for high property tax rates (or insisting that they cap local spending in order for their constituents to qualify for rebates) is disingenuous.”
Samuels, a businessman, entrepreneur and Democratic political activist who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010, recently formed EffectiveNY, a nonprofit “focused on New York State policy and reform advocacy,” according to its website. He previously created the New Roosevelt Initiative, which worked on reforms to New York’s fiscal practices, ethics rules, redistricting policies and other issues.
The report noted that the local Medicaid share is a primary reason why New York residents pay such high property taxes. In Rockland, 70 percent of property taxes pay for the health program. In Westchester, 40 percent of property taxes pay Medicaid bills.
EffectiveNY is proposing some Medicaid funding options for the state that might not be too popular with some lawmakers, such as increasing the so-called millionaires’ tax and reducing or eliminating STAR — School Tax Relief — benefits.