Medicaid Reform Needed for Homeowners and Taxpayers

April 7, 2006

The good news out of Albany last week was that the state budget was passed on time for the second consecutive year, after 20 years of futility. Not so good was the news that the spending plan didn’t include significant Medicaid relief for New York’s homeowners and taxpayers. The skyrocketing costs of Medicaid are among the biggest reasons property taxes are dramatically escalating across the state.

These exorbitant costs are an enormous drain on county resources, and often localities have no choice but to raise taxes. One of the major contributing factors is fraud within the Medicaid system. My Assembly minority colleagues and I had proposed to combat this problem by creating the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General. This office would have overseen the program and served as a watchdog to weed out fraudulent claims. Unfortunately, it was not included in this year’s budget.

Similarly rejected by the Assembly majority was more than a dozen cost-cutting measures that would have made tremendous strides toward cutting Medicaid spending and keeping hard-earned dollars in the pockets of our taxpayers.

Everyone has agreed we can save anywhere from $ 2 billion - $ 15 billion dollars by reforming Medicaid. Unfortunately, the Assembly majority passed on this opportunity during the most recent budget process.

The new Assembly Minority Task Force on Medicaid Waste, Fraud and Abuse plans to traverse the state to seek suggestions as to how the system can be improved, while still continuing to provide necessary medical services to those who can least afford them. The Task Force will then craft meaningful legislation that will help both localities and taxpayers, while keeping the Medicaid system in place.

I am extremely pleased that the budget was once again passed on time. Members from both sides of the aisle were able to come together – in public – to negotiate in good faith. This is a tremendous improvement over recent years, and definitely an encouraging sign. The next step is to make sure that the resulting product is a budget that is in the best interest of all New Yorkers. This one isn’t bad, but without true Medicaid reform, we can’t call it a complete success. I will continue to advocate for Medicaid reform and for saving taxpayer dollars until we complete this task.