New York lawmakers react to Senate health bill

Bill praised, criticized for Medicaid provisions
Congressman John Faso (R-Kinderhook)
Congressman John Faso (R-Kinderhook)

The Senate healthcare bill released Thursday brought criticism from New York’s Democratic officials but was lauded by Republican Congressman John Faso for its inclusion of a provision he authored that shifts Medicaid costs from local counties to the state. 
“For decades, Albany’s Medicaid mandate and resulting property taxes have burdened New Yorkers unlike in any other state,” said Faso in a prepared statement. “The language in the Senate bill will fulfill the objective of the Property Tax Reduction Act and give New Yorkers some long-overdue property tax relief.”
The act, also known as the Collins-Faso amendment, was also included in the House version of the healthcare bill that was passed in May, which Faso voted in favor of. It’s designed to require the state to pick up the counties’ share of Medicaid costs with the eventual aim of lowering property taxes. Western New York Congressman Chris Collins authored the provision with Faso. 
Beyond praising the Senate healthcare bill for it’s inclusion of his amendment, a spokesman for Faso said he is examining the rest of the language in the legislation.
“Congressman Faso is carefully reviewing the proposed text as he awaits the final version that will be sent to the House,” said spokesman John Lange.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, characterized the Senate bill — called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 — as disastrous to New Yorkers, if passed. 
“The … bill continues the ultra-conservative assault on New Yorkers and our values,” said Cuomo in a prepared statement Thursday. “Senate Republicans have broken their promise to protect the American people and are trying to pass an inhumane piece of legislation that hurts middle-class New Yorkers, discriminates against women, defunds Planned Parenthood and turns its back on the most vulnerable Americans.”
Cuomo also mentioned the Collins-Faso amendment in his remarks, calling it a “reckless” provision that “targets New York and threatens to slash an additional $2.3 billion in Medicaid funding for the state.” 
The governor has previously said that if the amendment were included in any federal healthcare legislation that is adopted, it would lead to cuts to hospitals and nursing homes across the state. 
Other Democratic lawmakers denounced the Senate health bill for its cuts to Medicaid and the elimination of Medicaid expansion that was included under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. 
“The cuts to Medicaid in particular are galling,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in a prepared statement Thursday. “Medicaid serves one in five Americans – not only the poor, but two-thirds of those in nursing homes, more than 30 million children and countless individuals with disabilities.” 
Gillibrand said ending Medicaid expansion, which insured an additional 11 million people under Obamacare, is a “cruel joke.” She added that the proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood are a “blatantly partisan” attack on women’s health.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer’s office did not return a message left seeking a comment on the legislation. 
Democratic Congressman Paul Tonko said Thursday that the Senate bill is just as harmful as its House counterpart. 
“It would deny care to millions of America’s seniors, veterans, women, those approaching retirement, expectant and new mothers, the disabled, those suffering from addiction or mental health disorders, and the poorest and most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Tonko in a prepared statement. 
Both the House and Senate health bills include other rollbacks on Obamacare, like the elimination of a 3.8 percent tax on investment income on people earning $200,000 that was part of the ACA. 
A spokesman for Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said she was reviewing the Senate bill’s language and touted her effort to get an additional $15 billion for maternity care included in the House health care bill, which she voted in favor of.
“Congresswoman Stefanik will continue to work to build a healthcare system that lowers costs, improves quality and increases access for North Country families,” said spokesman Tom Flanagin. 
Both Stefanik and Faso have taken heat from constituents for supporting the House bill, which is officially called the American Health Care Act. 
Faso was picketed last month when he spoke at a Republican dinner in Schoharie County. Stefanik was booed at a town hall she participated in in Plattsburgh, as constituents voiced displeasure over Medicaid cuts proposed by the AHCA. 
Nurses at Gloversville’s Nathan Littauer Hospital staged a protest Wednesday in anticipation of the Senate bill — particularly the predicted cuts to Medicaid and what was previously contained in the AHCA. 
The protest was organized by the NYS Nurses Association and 1199 SEIU. Both groups said in a prepared statement that, according to a state Department of Health analysis, Nathan Littauer stands to lose $1.6 million over four years if the AHCA were to be passed as is.
A spokeswoman for Nathan Littauer did not return a call for comment Thursday. Albany Medical Center and St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam also did not respond to inquiries about the Senate health bill’s potential impacts on those organizations. 
The Senate bill will now return to the House. Any changes will be reviewed by a conference committee from both chambers, after which the bill will be voted upon by the House and Senate. If passed, the health bill will be sent to the president for his signature.

Categories: -News-, Schenectady County

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