Fulton County supervisors push for state to assume Medicaid costs

Members of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee on Thursday asked state legislat

The cost of Medicaid for Fulton County taxpayers worries those looking to settle down in the region or build up industry. The cost has kept people out, county supervisors say, to the detriment of the rural county in desperate need of an economic boost.

That’s why members of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee on Thursday asked state legislators for a multi-year takeover of counties’ share of Medicaid costs.

“This is probably the most monumental approach forward, in terms of concrete legislation, that we’ve had in the last 40 years since Medicaid was enacted,” said committee member John Callery. “Without Medicaid getting restructured and off our property taxes, there’s no hope for county governments.”

Pushing for Medicaid relief will be the focus of the committee’s advocacy efforts for the next six to eight months, he said.

A bill currently in the state Senate and Assembly would freeze local contributions to the cost of Medicaid on Jan. 1, 2012, and allow for an eight-year phased state takeover of all non-federal Medicaid costs. By October 2012, local contributions would be reduced by 5 percent, with more reductions in subsequent years. By 2019, the state would fully assume local Medicaid costs.

Supervisors received a pledge from Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, on Thursday morning in support of the bill and said they plan to reach out to state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, for his support, as well.

Fulton County property taxpayers paid about $13.4 million in state Medicaid costs this year. If the state were to take over the county’s share of those costs, county property taxes could be slashed by more than 50 percent, supervisors said.

“Medicaid is one of the big drawbacks and threats to this area for people who want to move here,” said committee member Marie Born. “People from many different counties are starting to band together with this idea that we need Medicaid reform.”

She heard the sentiment expressed several times at a Wednesday night public hearing by the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council, which includes representatives from Schoharie, Montgomery, Fulton, Otsego, Oneida and Herkimer counties. Board of Supervisors Chairman David Howard said the overall attitude at a New York State Association of Counties meeting last week was that the counties have “finally come to a breaking point.”

“A good number of rural counties have their backs up against a wall and no place to go,” Howard said. “I would strongly suggest that every one of you fight for this and don’t back up. Is it as strong as we’d like to see it or as immediate as we’d like to see it? Of course not. But it’s one of the things we as counties can do together.”

County officials at the NYSAC meeting in Lake Placid said the proposed legislation is exactly the kind of mandate relief that’s needed as the state imposes a 2 percent property tax cap. At a statewide local cost of $7.3 billion, Medicaid is the biggest mandate counties face, supervisors said.

“They pledged to also enact mandate relief that would enable and empower local leaders to implement that tax cap, but that mandate relief has not materialized,” read the resolution Fulton County supervisors unanimously approved.

State Sen. Roy McDonald, among a bipartisan coalition that proposed the legislation, said Thursday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s people were interested in the legislation and like the idea of phasing out local control of Medicaid.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of upstate counties endorse the idea,” he said. “I personally think we’re going to get it passed.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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