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Democrats push for Medicaid equity

Democrats push for Medicaid equity

Democrats push for Medicaid equity
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko: "New York has a long history of being overlooked ... when it comes to federal Medicaid funding."
Photographer: Eric Jenks/For the Daily Gazette

ALBANY -- Several members of New York's congressional delegation, including U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, have proposed legislation that would require the federal government to pay the $2.3 billion annual share of Medicaid costs now funded by county governments outside of New York City.

The proposed "Empire State Equity Act," for which Gov. Andrew Cuomo voiced support Thursday during a conference call with members of Congress, comes a week after the House dropped consideration of the American Health Care Act due to lack of support. The Affordable care Act-repeal plan was favored by the state's Republican congressional delegation, with an added provision that would have had the state take over the counties' Medicaid costs, which have been one of county leaders' biggest complaints for decades.

"Unfortunately, New York has a long history of being overlooked and under-served when it comes to federal Medicaid funding," said Tonko. "Bringing a fairer share of our federal tax money back home to New York will help our counties and our taxpayers."

Cuomo called the American Health Care Act amendment sponsored by U.S. Reps. Chris Collins, R-Lancaster, and John Faso, R-Kinderhook, a "sham," since the state would have needed to raise taxes to cover the additional cost that would be picked up from the counties.

"This state pays much more to the federal government than it gets in return, and I urge Congress to do the right thing by passing this bill and helping level the playing field between New York and the rest of the nation," Cuomo said.

But the bill's backers acknowledged the measure has little prospect of passage, considering there are Republican majorities in both the House and Senate and a Republican in the White House.

"It will be very difficult to do, but the idea has to begin somewhere," said U.S. Rep Eliot Engel, D-Westchester. "I think we have an obligation to introduce ideas and plans that are more equitable than they are now."

Schenectady County Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski issued a statement supporting the proposal.

"It takes strong leadership in New York to impact change in Washington," Jasenski said. "We join Governor Cuomo’s call for Congress to pass the ‘Empire State Equity Act,’ which maintains important Medicaid programs while delivering meaningful tax relief for hardworking New Yorkers."

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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