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County Officials unclear about governor’s Medicaid plans

New York state county officials are still unclear how potential changes by state officials to Medicaid will impact their budgets.

Last week, the New York State Associations of Counties (NYSAC) held its annual legislative conference in Albany, inviting leaders from every county in the state to attend to gain insight into the policy’s in the proposed 2020-21 state budget.

Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel attended the conference and said one of the main concerns on the minds of county leaders throughout the state is how they might be impacted by potential changes to Medicaid.

Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during his 2020-21 state budget presentation that counties might have to pay more for Medicaid if they don’t keep spending below 3%. Also, the governor said counties will also have to keep their overall spending still below the state’s 2% tax cap or they will have to pay more toward Medicaid.

“I was involved in discussions with New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica to learn more about the state’s reasoning and formula behind its Medicaid proposals,” Wendel said. “It is important that county leaders have time to fully understand the changes to the Medicaid program as these changes could have a big fiscal impact on our area.”

Wendel said the state’s Medicaid formula is very complex. He said county leaders throughout the state proposed questions to Mujica about the governor’s new Medicaid proposal.

“We are now waiting for a response back,” Wendel said. “We don’t know how much this will effect the county. The potential impact could be extreme.”

Wendel said the governor’s medicaid redesign team will be working now until the state budget deadline of April 1 to find ways to cut program spending by $2.5 billion. It’s unknown how the potential state spending cuts will impact counties. However, county officials have asked state officials to delay implementation of any plans that would significantly increase funding for counties.

“Our budget (for 2020) is already in place. So what (the medicaid redesign team decides) could impact our budget,” Wendel said. “We’ve asked (that state officials) delay their implementation. We (county officials) are all in the same boat. We don’t know the impact (possible changes to Medicaid will have on counties). There is little clarity on what this will look like. We will let the Medicaid redesign team do its job and then re-examine it.”

In other NYSAC business, Wendel said county officials also discussed the new criminal justice reform laws during the conference. He said county officials have been told there won’t be any changes to the new laws during the budget process.

Last year, the state Legislature approved of the new criminal justice reform laws that include cashless bail for nonviolent defendants and a quicker discovery process, which is now only a 15-day process.

“There’s not going to be any changes in the budget, but we all spoke out against it (the new criminal justice reform laws). Everybody across the state,” he said. “There were a lot of questions that are being heard by high-ranking officials in the governor’s administration. We were told no changes, but, at the same time, high-ranking officials know they have to take a look at it (criminal justice reforms).”

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