New York's counties unite to oppose state collection of federal Medicaid funding

Mar. 1—ALBANY — The New York State Association of Counties wrapped up its annual conference in the capital on Wednesday, adopting a platform that takes a highly critical stance of some of the proposals included in Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul's budget proposal.

County government officials are extremely concerned by the idea that the state government may move to intercept $625 million in enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage money, which is given to governments that manage Medicaid. In New York, county governments oversee their own Medicaid programs, and have historically been entitled to the eFMAP money, which is passed through the state government to the counties.

"Medicaid has been emphasized through the entire conference," said Jefferson County Legislature Chair William W. Johnson, who attended the conference with seven Jefferson County legislators. "As they've said, we have to keep our foot on the pedal on this issue."

Jefferson County could lose up to $2.5 million in federal aid in the first full year of the interception, adding to its already $18 million annual Medicaid budget. Lewis County could see a $700,000 cut compared to its $5 million annual Medicaid budget, and St. Lawrence County could see a $3.08 million cut compared to a $20.4 million annual Medicaid budget.

Because the state operates on a different fiscal calendar than counties, there is potential that the counties would see an impact on their eFMAP allocations in this budget year, giving no opportunities to adjust budget plans to account for the extra costs.

NYSAC reports that, over four years, the state's 62 counties would see additional Medicaid costs of at least $2.5 billion.

David W. Forsythe, chair of the St. Lawrence County Legislature, was also at the NYSAC conference Wednesday and said the Medicaid funding change has been a major issue for his fellow legislators.

"In both our county and within NYSAC, we have offered a resolution in opposition to this money grab by the state," he said. "Instead of rewarding counties who are consistently frugal with their fund balances, the state apparently feels we are too plush and this will be the low hanging fruit for them to balance their budgets."

Mr. Forsythe also criticized New York for collecting a portion of the proceeds from property tax auctions, which he said has impeded St. Lawrence County's ability to address blighted properties.

On Wednesday, NYSAC members adopted a resolution that calls for New York state to allow counties to keep their eFMAP allocation.

In attendance was state Sen. Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown, who represents the 49th Senate District covering Jefferson, Lewis, Fulton, Hamilton and parts of St. Lawrence, Oswego and Herkimer counties.

Mr. Walczyk said he and many other state legislators are opposed to the state taking eFMAP money from the counties, and said there are discussions going on in the Capitol on budget adjustments to remove the interception.

"It's probably illegal to do it anyway," he said.

In the governor's proposal, the $625 million eFMAP funding would be redirected to other costs, including some of the state's own Medicaid costs. Sen. Walczyk said the money, allocated through an act of Congress, is intended specifically for the governments that manage the bulk of the Medicaid program, the counties in New York.

The county legislators visited with their state representatives over the course of the NYSAC conference, pushing the issue repeatedly.

"I think this visit from the county legislators has been incredibly timely, they're bringing their concern at the perfect time in the budget process," Sen. Walczyk said.