Poloncarz to Governor: don’t blame us for ballooning Medicaid costs

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–Medicaid, the health coverage program for low income patients, is turning into the latest political “Hot potato” in Albany.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget for 2020 has a $6.2 billion hole in it and Gov. Cuomo is pegging about a third of that on exploding Medicaid costs, and Cuomo is pointing his finger at the counties.

The governor has accused county officials of failing to rein in Medicaid spending, conjuring up a term he calls the Blank Check Syndrome, “we are signing the check and they are filling out the amount.”

In 2013 the state agreed to flat-line county spending on Medicaid, and the state would pick up the counties’ costs above their 2013 level. But Cuomo said that took away the counties’ incentive to hold the line on Medicaid, and the cost has been steadily rising.

“Their cost does not go up. It does not matter what they spend, their cost does not go up. It doesn’t matter what they save, they don’t get any savings.”

But Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the governor should not try to blame the runaway spending on the counties.

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“The issue is not that we can’t control costs. The state controls the costs. The governor is putting the blame on us in areas that are not under our control.”

Poloncarz said Erie County’s population is aging, and there are now more people on Medicaid than ever before. He said executives in other counties are saying the same thing.

Erie County’s CEO explained, state and federal guidelines determine who is eligible for Medicaid, “We determine eligibility, but the eligibility guidelines are based off of state and federal rules, so we have no say in that.  If somebody comes in and applies for Medicaid and they qualify, they get it. If they don’t qualify, they don’t.”

Gov. Cuomo is proposing a three-percent cap on Medicaid growth: if a county’s Medicaid costs exceed the cap, the county would pay the difference.

If they keep their spending below the cap, the county would get a portion of the savings.            Poloncarz says state budget officials and county leaders are talking.

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