An outraged Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday accused Republicans of punishing New Yorkers and potentially dealing a “devastating” blow to Long Island’s health care industry by pushing an amendment to President Donald Trump and the House Republicans’ health care repeal bill exclusively aimed at the Empire State.
Cuomo slammed House Republicans after the provision to scrap Medicaid payments from county governments and shift the cost to the state was added to the beleaguered health bill as a way to sway unconvinced Republicans in Congress to support the bill.
“The consequences will really be devastating to this state,” Cuomo said, adding that the amendment would cut $2.3 billion from Medicaid in upstate New York and on Long Island. New York would lose $4.6 billion over the next four years as a result, the governor said.
As it stands, half of all Medicaid funding in the state comes from the federal government, and the remaining half is split evenly between the state and county government and other localities. The amended bill would scrap county funding of Medicaid and would ban federal reimbursement for local governments outside of New York City, which would still have to pay its share of Medicaid costs.
With county funding removed from the equation entirely, there would be no one to make up the difference, argued Cuomo.
The governor went on a blistering attack against House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and two upstate House Republicans who authored the amendment.
“They’ve declared war on New York and this is just the beginning,” Cuomo said. “It started with health care, you’re going to see it with the budget that disproportionately hurts New York, you’re going to see it with their talk about ending state and local tax deductibility, it is nothing short of a targeted war on New York.”
“It is cheap politics at best, because what the Congresspeople say is, ‘Well, if the county doesn’t have to pay their share, then the county can reduce taxes,'” Cuomo added. “What they leave out is, if the county doesn’t pay its share, there’s another $2.3 billion cut to Medicaid on top of everything else, and that means less people are going to get health care assistance.”
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul continued the evisceration late Tuesday, accusing Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence) of perpetuating a “political scam on New York.”
“If Mr. Collins wants to buy votes let the federal government pick up the share rather that the people of New York,” Hochul said in a statement. “Local county taxes or state taxes New Yorkers still pay. One way or another, it is still coming out of New York taxpayers’ pockets.”
Collins characterized the amendment as a victory for New Yorkers in his own statement Tuesday.
“This amendment will stop Albany from forcing its unfunded mandate down the throats of taxpayers, and help counties lower the property tax burden on hardworking families,” he said. “We understand the devastating impact New York’s reckless spending is having on everyday New Yorkers, and I’m proud to join with members of our delegation to bring vital tax relief to our constituents.”
As many as 2.7 million New Yorkers could lose health insurance under the Republicans’ repeal bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office. On Long Island, the number of people in danger of losing health insurance is estimated at 133,324 and 152,631 within Nassau and Suffolk counties, respectively.
Under the Affordable Care Act, New York, like many other states, expanded its Medicaid program, which experts say has helped lower the number of uninsured New Yorkers, which has been reduced from 10 to 5 percent since the Affordable Care Act went into effect.
Officials from Nassau and Suffolk counties both said they’re reviewing the current proposal. A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county paid $241,121,959 in Medicaid payments in 2016. Nassau did not provide a figure.
Health care experts on Long Island expressed concern over the new bill’s impact on Medicaid and what it would mean for hospitals even before the new provision came into play. Cuomo singled out hospitals and nursing homes on Long Island that could be in jeopardy if the bill as it currently stands passes.
Republicans have promised for years to repeal Obamacare. Now that they’re in control of both chambers of Congress, they’re in a position to do just that. But an unfavorable CBO report, combined with criticism from various medical associations, and an ideological split within their own party, has hampered those efforts.
The GOP this week put on a full-court press to avoid the bill from faltering in the House by instituting other changes to Medicaid to alleviate concerns from noncommittal members. Republicans need 216 votes to push the bill out of the House and to the Senate, where 51 votes are needed.
The mad dash to bolster support for the bill included a visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday by the president himself.
While the fight has focused on repealing Obamacare, locally there have been efforts to preserve the ACA.
Democrats in the Nassau County Legislature Tuesday held a press conference urging County Executive Ed Mangano to review the impact a repeal would have on residents. One day earlier, Suffolk County Democrats held a similar event, arguing that low-income families, seniors, and those suffering from addiction could be left out in the cold.
“Don’t be fooled: The plan right now will take people’s health care away, which will lead to death for many people,” said Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “Health care should be a right. What is happening right now in Congress is a travesty.”
Grassroots groups are also getting in on the action. Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin and New York’s 2nd District Democrats, two groups that emerged out of Trump’s election victory, planned separate rallies calling on Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford) to vote “No” on the new bill. New York’s 2nd District Democrats plan to demonstrate outside King’s Massapequa Park office Wednesday night.