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Lawmakers seek to end county contributions to Medicaid

— Lawmakers in Albany are pushing to get New York State to take over County Medicaid costs.

According to an Albany Times Union report the health insurance program for the poor consumes an average of about 45 percent of county property tax levies. A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday put forth a plan to freeze the local share and begin phasing out the counties' contribution toward the $53 billion program.”

Senator Roy McDonald of Saratoga and fellow Republican Senator Pat Gallivan from western New York are among a handful of lawmakers who are spearheading the plan, which would begin with a cap on Medicaid increases. They say taxpayers expect the state to reduce mandated expenditures now that the property tax cap has been instituted.

Medicaid costs have long been a source of rancor between counties and the state.

But the tide appears to be shifting in the debate as counties face a 2 percent property tax cap that will force them to slash expenditures. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is moving to limit the overall growth in Medicaid spending.

Franklin County is among those that are struggling. Franklin County Manager Tom Leitz said the county’s Medicaid Bill will soon eat up its entire tax levy.

“The county property tax levy this year is $14.3 million,” Leitz said. “Medicaid is about $10 million even. So that is almost 70 percent of the county property tax levy.”

That was Franklin County Manager Tom Leitz. Like many other county officials across the state, Leitz is considering serious cuts to other services in order to help pay for rising Medicaid costs.

He’s proposed more than a dozen cuts, including slashing much of the county tourism office’s operating budget, eliminating public bus routs with sparse ridership, and cutting in home heath care services to residents who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Leitz said the only way solve the problem is to reform state mandates, such as medicade.

The state has the option, if they take over the mediciad program entirely, to modify the program,” Leitz said. “The county can not.”

Other county’s are facing similar struggles and Medicaid is one of the state's largest budget items.

One in four New Yorkers gets some form of Medicaid and 1 million people have been added in the last decade.

Under the current system, the federal government shoulders approximately half the cost, with states and counties each picking up 25 percent.

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