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Medicaid reform a pathway to the future

The first year of my first term is coming to an end. It has been an interesting and an informative experience thus far. Before serving in public office, I was unaware of the depth of difficulties local municipalities face when dealing with the bureaucratic state of New York. Throughout the year I proposed resolutions to help alleviate the tax burden we all face living in New York. Medicaid and State Mandated Programs are the largest offenders of our local taxes. One hundred four percent of our tax bill goes to pay for state and federal programs that are implemented locally with little to no funding from the State or other sources. Until the State of New York does something to reform these policies, New York State residents and businesses will continue to suffer.

Medicaid is the principal source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with a limited income in the United States. While Medicaid is a federal program, it is administered by each state individually which has resulted in disparity amongst states as far as the benefits that are offered. The federal government has set limits that determine eligibility as well as limits on the services that need to be provided. Over the past four decades, New York State has increased the services provided and has lowered eligibility levels allowing more people to receive greater benefits from Medicaid.

In May, I sponsored resolutions requesting the New York State Legislature and the New York State Governor to eliminate the optional benefits that are provided specifically under New York State's Medicaid plan. In 2009, the gross cost of the Medicaid program for Onondaga County, including the share paid by the federal and state governments, was $698 million. In New York State, optional benefits and services cost taxpayer's an additional $12 billion. I feel that we could scale back on the optional services, and still be providing quality care for our under-privileged. I sponsored a second resolution in October asking the New York State Legislature to permanently end new and existing unfunded mandates on local governments. Currently, the State Legislature institutes a policy or program, and then forces local governments to administer and fund these programs. This is simply a shift in cost from state to local taxpayers, and it is time for these inefficiencies to end. If the state government wants to implement a program, it should be the State's responsibility to fund it. Local governments are forced to eliminate programs and services from our budgets that would greatly benefit our local constituents in order to be able to pay for the state mandates.

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