Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a group of House Democrats rekindled last week’s fight over New York’s Medicaid cost-sharing on Thursday by announcing a forthcoming bill that would raise the state’s Medicaid funding so it could then relieve county governments of the portion they pay.
The previous week, Rep. John Faso, the Republican freshman whose district includes Sullivan and Ulster counties, had championed an amendment to the House Republicans’ doomed Obamacare replacement bill that would have forced the state to end its practice of having counties shoulder part of the Medicaid expense. That amendment – intended to secure the support of New York’s Republicans for the health care bill – had set off a fierce political battle that seemed to end with the bill’s failure on Friday.
It didn’t. Faso, who had campaigned on the Medicaid issue in 2016 and touts it as a way to curb New York’s property taxes, has indicated he plans to persist with that push. And on Thursday, Cuomo and six House Democrats – including 18th District Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of Cold Spring – countered by announcing legislation raising federal Medicaid funding to New York by $2.3 billion, the exact amount that upstate and Long Island counties would have stopped contributing under the amendment Faso supported.
The bill – yet to be released as of Friday – seemed mostly a rhetorical point about government cost shifting and New York’s status as a “donor state” that pays Washington more than it gets back, since the proposal obviously would have no chance in a Republican-controlled House. In a press release and then a conference call with reporters, Cuomo unloaded anew on Faso and Rep. Chris Collins, the Buffalo-area Republican who initially introduced what became known as the “Faso-Collins amendment.”
“Faso-Collins said in an amendment, well, they will disallow the counties Medicaid costs, so the counties will no longer have to pay for Medicaid, and the burden will shift to the state,” Cuomo said during the conference call. “Oh, well thank you very much—for absolutely nothing.”
He later summarized the point of the Democrats’ counter-proposal: “This says, let’s give New York additional Medicaid money because they are a donor state, let’s reduce the inequity and New York will then give the money to the taxpayers in property tax relief.”
Maloney, who participated in the call, said, “This Faso fraud was never going to work, and this proposal can.”
The salvo did not go unanswered. A rival chorus of five Republican House members from New York fired off their own press release criticizing New York’s high Medicaid spending and blaming the state’s ability to pass part of the cost to its counties (they currently pick up about 13 percent). They contend that New York’s counties – including New York City – pay $7.2 billion of the total $9 billion local governments contribute to Medicaid in the U.S.
“Governor Cuomo will spend billions of dollars on corporate welfare in his budget and millions more on self-serving television commercials,” Faso said in the Republicans’ joint statement. “If he cannot, by 2020, spare 1.5 percent to cover his state government’s share of Medicaid costs, it will be remembered as another broken promise to Upstate New York. New York’s Medicaid mandate is a serious problem for counties and taxpayers across my district.”
He vowed introduced a bill “to end this 51-year-old practice once and for all.”
Faso and his fellow Republicans later got air support in the skirmish from the advocacy group Reclaim New York, which issued a press released denouncing Cuomo’s “manipulative Medicaid and property tax ploy.”
“Governor Cuomo is using Washington as a political punching bag again, so Albany can dodge responsibility for New York’s bloated Medicaid program, and high property taxes,” said the group’s executive director, Brandon Muir. “It’s disgusting, and manipulative to tell struggling New Yorkers a federal bill that won’t get passed is their hope for tax relief. This is a cynical political move. It’s also an admission New York can’t manage a Medicaid program like the rest of the country, and needs special treatment.”