Proposal for NY State to take over Medicaid would cut St. Lawrence County tax bill in half
Saturday, March 1, 2014 - 8:34 am

By JIMMY LAWTON

CANTON -- St. Lawrence County legislators are pushing a plan that could cut the local property tax levy by as much as $26 million, but would require the state to take over Medicaid.

The plan would shift the Medicaid program back to state, and would require the state to seek federal financial support offered under the Affordable Care Act, which is often referred to as Obamacare.

St. Lawrence County legislators passed a resolution during a finance committee meeting Monday that asks the state to gradually reduce the local share of Medicaid costs, by taking advantage of funds available in the ACA.

While the majority of legislators supported the bill legislator Mark Akins, a Republican from Lisbon, voted against it.

Board chairman Jonathan Putney, a Democrat from Waddington, said the proposal would relieve the county from its Medicaid obligations, which makes up roughly 50 percent of the total county tax levy. Instead Medicaid would be implemented and funded by the state. Putney said this makes sense, because of reimbursements available under the Affordable Care Act.

“The state Legislature and governor have made the reduction in property tax growth a top priority,” the resolution says. “The ACA provides continued opportunities for New York State to lower Medicaid program costs beyond those related to enhanced federal matching funds”

Putney said the request is another attempt at mandate relief from the state, but it also provides potential cost savings for the state, since the ACA provides assistance in offsetting Medicaid costs.

New York is one of only three states that forces counties to share the cost of providing Medicaid benefits.

“I think we are stuck with a $26 million bill annually and we have no control of the regulations, but have to implement the program. With the Affordable Care Act there is federal money available to reimburse the state. Those extra funds should be used to remove the county portion of Medicaid,” he said. “We have a had a certain level of success in getting some relief on Medicaid. This would expand that,” he said.

The resolution also calls on state lawmakers to “diligently pursue the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to work closely with the New York Congressional Delegation to preserve the enhanced Medicaid matching rates available to the State under the law.”

It also calls on the state to take advantage of any opportunities provided by the Affordable Care Act.

“In an effort to lower the property tax burden in New York, the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators also request that the Governor and Legislature to continue to: fully leverage all federal health reform flexibilities and enhanced payment rates available under the ACA, maximize federal resources available through the 1115 Medicaid waiver process, lower state and local Medicaid costs by examining current State eligibility and benefit levels in Medicaid that can be shifted to health insurance coverage supported with federal dollars under the ACA, maximizing expenditure controls through enhanced Medicaid program integrity efforts in conjunction with the counties and New York City, and work to direct a portion of any further savings from these actions toward lowering and eventually eliminating the local contribution counties and New York City provide to support the State's Medicaid Program.”

While the resolution received support from the finance committee, it will need to be passed by the board of legislators Monday, before it will be sent to the Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other state representatives.