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Congressional Dems, Cuomo Seek More Federal Medicaid Funds For New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo Photo Credit: New York State Governor's website

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Democratic members of New York's congressional delegation announced support for a bill that would raise the federal government's Medicaid funding to the state by $2.3 billion.

Cuomo said that, in exchange, the state would use the funds to take over counties' Medicaid payment shares, provided that they agree to pass along all of their savings to property taxpayers.

County officials have long complained about their Medicaid shares, arguing that they represent an unfunded mandate that contributes to high property taxes.

Announcement of the federal legislation, which is called the Empire State Equity Act, came less than a week after a House Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (or "Obamacare") effectively came apart.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), declined to bring the bill to a floor vote due to a lack of support within his party to pass it, according to news reports.

The replacement bill, called the American Health Care Act (or "Trumpcare"), contained an amendment that would have required New York's state government to take over the counties' Medicaid shares or risk losing federal reimbursement. The amended was inserted by U.S. Rep. John Faso, a Hudson Valley Republican, and his colleague, upstate Republican Chris Collins.

Cuomo vehemently opposed the amendment and the broader bill, arguing that it would result in a $4.7 billion cost to the state, adverse impact to 2.7 million New Yorkers' coverage and result in a 10-percent state income tax hike.

The new bill would increase New York's Medicaid matching funds  by changing its eligibility threshold, called the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) by four percent. New York currently only gets a total match of 50 percent, Cuomo's office noted, versus the more-than-75-percent level that some other states receive.

New York's FMAP rate is the lowest allowed by federal law, Cuomo's office added.

"This measure doesn’t rob Peter to pay Paul, it provides real savings for New Yorkers," the governor said in a statement. "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 to level the playing field between New York and the rest of the nation once and for all."

Among the congressional Democrats in support of the new bill are two members of the Hudson Valley delegation: Sean Patrick Maloney and Eliot Engel.

"Ask any of my neighbors in the Hudson Valley and they will tell you they are bogged down by high property taxes, which is why this legislation is so important – it will put hundreds of dollars back into the pockets of hardworking families in the Hudson Valley by reducing our burdensome property taxes without hurting the Medicaid program," Maloney said in a statement. "Thanks to Governor Cuomo for supporting this critical legislation so that New York receives the federal Medicaid support it deserves while providing relief to millions of New Yorkers and thousands of my neighbors."

"Our bill would ensure that New York would receive an additional $2.3 billion in Medicaid funding, thus ensuring New Yorkers would not have to feel the pinch of severe Medicaid funding cuts because of a misguided GOP agenda," Engel said in a statement. "Medicaid is a lifeline for the people of New York – as their Representatives, we’re going to make sure they aren’t harmed. I applaud Governor Cuomo for working with my colleagues and me to protect all New Yorkers."

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