OWEGO — On Tuesday, Tioga County Legislators stood in firm opposition of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to shift Medicaid costs down to counties as part of his Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

The 2021 budget proposal faces a $6.1 billion deficit, over half of which is attributed to the Medicaid program.

In 2015, Cuomo put a zero percent cap on cost growth in order to help slow property tax increases.

The Medicaid program has been running 16 percent over budget, and billions in delayed payments have shifted costs from one year to the next.

The state’s Medicaid budget is continuing to face billions of dollars in annual deficits over the next several years due to rising health care and pharmaceutical costs — especially with the state’s expansion of services and mandated pay raises.

To address the fiscal shortfalls, Cuomo proposed a few cost-shifting initiatives from the state to county level:

  • Taking county governments’ federal enhanced Medicaid match savings funds
  • Forcing counties to pay for Medicaid growth if counties exceed the property tax cap
  • Shifting local share of Medicaid growth above 3 percent to counties, in the event counties cannot contain costs below that 3 percent figure.

On Tuesday, county legislators unanimously formally opposed the changes in a resolution, saying that if the state has not been able to stop program cost growth, it would be impossible for counties to do so.

“The governor kicked a deficit down the road that created this issue — the urgency of it,” Legislator Bill Standinger said. “At this point, it looks like he’s trying to punish the counties to cover up his error.”

“It’s pretty frustrating when they can’t get their act together up in Albany,” he continued. “Then, they blame it on us. We pass our budget in the fall; they pass theirs in April. They end up dumping stuff on us after we’ve completed our budget, and this is yet another example of that.”

Legislator Dennis Mullen noted that “Tioga County sends New York State $149,000 on a weekly basis.”

“This also does not relieve (counties) of staying underneath the 2 percent (property) tax cap,” Mullen continued. “It literally nullifies the property tax (cap) if there’s an increase of 3 percent or more.”

Mullen cited a study by the county’s social services department which found that last year, there would have been a 6 percent increase in Medicaid costs.

“Let’s be honest — these costs are not going down,” Mullen said. “I agree with Legislator Standinger. This is literally kicking the can down onto the counties. We have no authority to do anything about it except cough up the money.”

“We can’t control costs, we can’t control providers or anything. (The county) will pay the money, and we will come up with it after the budget has been set,” Mullen added.

“I would like to add that the New York State Association of Counties has taken on this cause to impress upon the governor what a poor decision this is,” said Legislative Chairwoman Marte Sauerbrey. “Counties across the state will be lobbying their Senators and Assemblymen about the severity of this proposal, and to ask them to come up with other alternatives rather than pass them onto the counties.”

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