New York State Exposed: How Medicaid impacts your taxes

Posted at: 11/14/2013 6:26 AM
Updated at: 11/14/2013 6:36 PM
By: Pat Taney

News10NBC is putting the microscope on a program that many people depend on to survive. But is it driving up your property taxes and fees in New York State? In our exclusive “New York State Exposed” report, nearly every state lawmaker, democrat or republican says yes. 

Medicaid is health insurance for families and people with low income. It's a program many argue is broken and too costly. New York spends more than any other state in the country on Medicaid. So is anything being done to fix that?

Ask any leader in counties like Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Medicaid is a budget breaker. Many people need it and nobody wants to take it away, but is there a way to cut costs? Many lawmakers say as it stands right now, it's full of fraud, waste  and so easy to access that people move to New York just to sign up.

It's a health crisis for the state's budget and your taxpayer dollars. Many worry Medicaid is causing your bottom line to flat line. 

New York spends more tax money on Medicaid than any other state, nearly $56 billion. That's almost twice as much as Texas, which has a larger population. When you break it down further,  it's more than $2,800 for every person who lives in New York. For a family of four, more than $11,000. 

Our state's eligibility requirements are the loosest in the country. In New York, some families can qualify for coverage if they make $23,000. Other states, the limit is much lower, like $5,000.  

Every single service allowed under federal law is available in New York.

Another problem is doctors charge a lot more. The system is flawed and it's one thing lawmakers in Albany and Washington agree on. 

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, (D) New York, said, “There's enormous amounts of waste and duplication in that program.”

Then, there's the issue of who pays for Medicaid. Each county in New York has to chip in something that's not required in 47 other states.

Monroe County pays 25 percent of costs and is projected to spend nearly $180 million next year alone.

Money that would go back to the taxpayer if you lived in another state. No one wants to turn away families and people who need coverage.

Judy, Medicaid recipient, said, “I've worked all my life. I've always had a job and health insurance. I never thought I would have to go for Medicaid.”

But, why can't we change it to save costs especially for struggling upstate counties?

Assemblyman Mark Johns, ( R) 135th District, said, “One of the toughest things in Albany is bringing the bill to the floor.”

You can blame Albany.  Some lawmakers have tried and failed to force the state to pick up all the costs.

Eileen Tiberio, Ontario County Commissioner of Social Services said, “State says we cannot do it, we can't raise this amount of money either.”

Here's something else that comes into play. How much the federal government reimburses New York. For decades, we've been getting paid back much less than other states.

Assemblyman Mark Johns said, “The reimbursement rate should be the same for all states there is no reason New York State should be penalized and have to pay a higher percentage than other states.”

News10NBC took that issue to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer.

Schumer said, “We've been trying to change that.” 

But it never goes anywhere.

News10NBC's Pat Taney said, “So there's no chance we'll get a break?”

Schumer said, “No, a better way to get a break is if the state has to pick up a greater share of costs the state will be more mindful of keeping costs down.”

It's a ping-pong game. New York wants to provide coverage it can't afford and the government won't serve up more help.

Some efforts are underway to cut costs. A statewide Medicaid re-design team now in place. It's goal is to bring better service and better outcomes at lower costs.  It's been able to slash roughly $4 billion dollars so far.  A good start, but many argue it's not enough to save us from being one of the highest taxed states in the union. 

The state is well aware it has a problem and is lessing the burden put on counties like Monroe. There's now a cap on the money counties are forced to pay. It used to increase year by year, but getting rid of the burden all together appears unlikely anytime soon.

Another issue is fraud. That's been a major problem for decades. The majority of people on Medicaid truly need it, but others are routinely scamming the system. The state is working to crack down on it, but critics say more needs to be done. So, we will continue to look into this and bring you updates.