By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO March 18, 2003 One of the most serious issues facing counties in New York is Medicaid.
The rising Medicaid costs have seriously affected most county budgets. It has become the number one issue, and the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) has been lobbying the governor to put a cap on it.
The issue was discussed at the Sullivan County Legislatures Health and Family Services Committee Meeting on Thursday, March 13.
County Manager Dan Briggs showed a video from NYSAC entitled Cap Medicaid Now: A Case for Change. After the video, Briggs reviewed the Medicaid statistics in the county and in the state.
Forty-nine percent of Sullivan Countys tax levy is due to Medicaid costs, commented Briggs. Last year, there was a 7.5 percent growth. We are anticipating a double digit growth this year.
Other counties saw an average property tax increase of 15 percent. It was a daunting challenge for us not to raise property taxes.
Health and Family Services Deputy Commissioner Robert Kuhn cited a 31 percent markup in applications. There has also been an increase in such programs as Family Healthcare Plus and Child Healthcare Plus.
The program is mandated, Briggs remarked. If it is capped at the 2001 levels (what NYSAC is seeking), it is manageable. We can contain it. Otherwise it will take away funds from our infrastructure.
The county tax portion is only 20-25 percent of the tax bill, pointed out Legislature Chair Leni Binder. The school portion is at least 50 percent. If it continues to go up, people will not be able to afford it. We have to look at the total picture.
We cannot abandon the people, Committee Chair Don Trotta said. The needy have to be taken care of at all costs. We have to maintain the level of service.
The county and NYSAC will continue to lobby the governor for a cap. No decisions on the budget have been made. It is due April 1, but it is expected to be late. The tape Briggs showed is a part of a statewide campaign to bring the problem to light.