Bush Offers Pataki $1.5 B For Medicaid If He Can Make Cuts
Governor George Pataki’s proposed $1 billion cut in Medicaid has run into strong opposition in the state legislature. Last week he got an offer of $1.5 billion from the federal government which could clear away the legislature’s opposition.
The governor wants to cut the health care program for low-income families because it eats up half the state’s budget and a good portion of local government budgets throughout the state.
The governor would shrink the program by closing some hospitals and nursing homes which are getting Medicaid funds for beds that aren’t being used.
In a rare instance when New York State and the federal government are in agreement on a huge amount of money, the federal government’s offer of $1.5 billion made last week, would come to us if the governor is able to convince the Assembly and state senate to agree to his Medicaid cuts.
Not only Pataki, but President George W. Bush also wants to cut Medicaid spending, so if the governor can get it done here in New York State, he would, in effect, get the federal money to help balance a budget which has a $4.1 billion hole in it.
Some lawmakers are curious whether the federal government’s offer would require cuts in Medicard they want to keep in the huge program, so it’s too soon to tell whether they’ll support the governor’s cuts. The legislators don’t want to lose programs that provide coverage to low-income families, seniors and children.
However, some hospital officials and the mammoth hospital workers union seem to feel the large infusion of cash from the Bush Administration would benefit everyone if some hospitals and nursing homes and health care agencies were to close.
An official of the hospital workers union, Local 1199 SEIU, and an official of an organization made up of 4550 hospitals and nursing homes both said they think the program of closings could work. They also want to hear more from the governor about the $1.5 billion offer from Washington.
These strange happenings and agreements on downsizing Medicaid aren’t so hard to explain when one realizes that the health care program is consuming about half of the state’s $100 billion budget, and also takes a huge chunk of the revenue that goes into New York City’s budget and the budgets of cities, towns and counties throughout the state because every government entity, large and small, kicks into Medicaid.
So it behooves Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican, to get behind the governor’s Medicaid cuts so they can get a budget in place. The deadline is April 1, just eight days away. It would be nice to have a budget on time for a change. It hasn’t happened in about 20 years.
MEANWHILE IN CONGRESS: Last Thursday, both the House and Senate voted on the Bush budget proposal and came down on different sides of the Medicaid issue, meaning they will have to sit down face to face to try to reconcile their differences.
The House went along with the president, but only with four votes to spare (218–214). It voted to cut Medicaid, which is the president’s position.
The Senate, also by a close vote (51–49), voted against the Medicaid cuts the president wants to make. Instead of the cuts, it called for a commission to be created to study how Medicaid is structured and then decide whether to keep it intact or eliminate some of the coverage.
Given the closeness of the votes in each chamber, which are both controlled by Republicans, the president appears to be in a good position to bring some pressure to get the budget he wants.