I recently became a sponsor of a bill that, if passed, would require the state to gradually take over Medicaid and the costs associated with the program. This will reduce property taxes and remove many costly mandates that have been passed down by the state to the county over the years.
The cost of Medicaid to counties often consumes more than half of the counties’ budgets. In Oswego County, the cost is estimated at 66% of the total budget. In Onondaga County, costs are estimated at $100 million for 2011—the largest portion of its budget as well. The cost is unsustainable. New York is one of the few states that requires county taxpayers to pay a share of Medicaid. This shared cost structure has likely contributed to the growth of this program.
The circumstances surrounding this bipartisan legislation make it more likely that it will pass. For one thing, it’s a good bill in that it makes takeover feasible. The phase-in process and financial shift would last until total takeover in 2019.
Another reason we need to pass this bill is because last year, state lawmakers passed a property tax cap. This was a huge victory for those of us who have been saying we need to contain the growth of property taxes. One thing that did not happen in the last legislative session was mandate relief. Though we passed a property tax cap, the mandates are still there, many of which are costly to localities. Medicaid is the biggest state mandate for counties and does not give counties the option to design a more affordable way of offering the insurance. As a result, property taxes increased over the years. Due to the property tax cap now in place, counties are faced with cutting essential services.
This bill would help “rightsize” Medicaid and change it from a benefit-rich program that we might not be able to afford. Costs for Medicaid are $52 billion. That number is only expected to increase if we do not act.
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