Governor’s Budget Asks Us to Pay More for Less Health Care
January 22, 2004
Local governments across the state have been demanding relief from escalating Medicaid costs – something the Assembly has long supported. In Cortland County, the Medicaid budget is expected to be over $10 million or about 45 percent of all property tax money collected this year. Likewise, Tompkins County faces a Medicaid bill of over $9.7 million this year – a jump of almost $2.2 million from last year. The governor has proposed a ten-year takeover of long-term care – saving localities statewide only $24 million this year. After nearly a decade of prodding from the Assembly, the governor has only begun to see the need to ease the Medicaid burden on local taxpayers. In fact, had the governor gone along with the Assembly’s proposals to have the state assume a larger share of Medicaid and the full non-federal share of Family Health Plus, we would have saved local taxpayers over $750 million since 1995 – and over $505 million in long-term care alone. This lack of leadership from the governor didn’t stop the Assembly from passing a law last year that provided Medicaid relief for localities across the state – including Tompkins and Cortland counties. For Tompkins County, the relief meant over $1.17 million in savings while Cortland County saved over $600,000. When it comes to our health, or the health of our loved ones — we will not compromise the care our families need. Last year, the governor tried to cut health care by $2 billion before a bipartisan legislative coalition beat him back. This year, the governor has come back with a $1.4 billion cut including nearly $800 million in cuts to Medicaid; a "sick tax" on hospitals, nursing homes and home health care agencies – that will cost these providers $429 million; and $178 million in cuts to other public health programs. In a blow to seniors, the governor’s budget attempts to cut $60 million from EPIC, the state’s prescription drug program that helps them afford their medication – cuts that would drive pharmacies out of the program and make prescription drugs less available to seniors. He’s also proposing co-pays for Family Health Plus and eliminating dental and vision coverage for those covered by the program. His budget also cuts $75 million in Early Intervention funds when fully implemented – hurting the most vulnerable, disabled children. Essentially, the governor’s budget asks us to pay more for health care and, in turn, receive poorer care. Many of our hospitals and nursing homes are already losing money and facing severe staffing shortages. Cutting Medicaid will only threaten the quality of care available for our families – forcing health care facilities to cut jobs and eliminate services. This is no way to balance the budget and I will again fight the governor’s wrong choices.