Lower Hudson Valley News reported last week on the current financial picture of the New York Medicaid program. Many local residents depend on the program to meet their various needs, including long-term care costs. Yet, time and again doomsday projections are offered which rightly confuse those who count on their participation to get by each day. According to this latest story, the current financial state of the program can best be summarized as expensive but under control.
As our New York Medicaid attorneys know, our state’s Medicaid program is one of the costliest in the nation–topping $54 billion a year. The Medicaid program accounts for 36% of the entire state budget–the largest single piece of the state’s yearly obligations. To limit the growth of the program the state created a self-imposed cap which sought to limit Medicaid spending. As of last Wednesday that goal had been met, and the cap was not breached. This was made even more impressive considering that in the same time period the use of the program actually grew, adding 104,000 enrollees in the last half of 2011 to top nearly 5 million total participants.
This is good news for local elder residents, millions of whom conduct New York Medicaid planning to ensure that they have the long-term care they need to survive in their golden years. So how has the state been able to stay below the budget cap even while the program grew in size? Experts explain that reduced hospital admission rates have helped. This allows residents to receive far cheap primary care as opposed to expensive hospital stays. Other cost-cutting measures have also helped rein in spending without slashing services.
However, statewide medical costs can be fickle, and solid footing one day can be gone the next. At a budget hearing where the matter was discussed, the state’s Medicaid director, Jason Helgerson, explained, “The good news is that through the end of December, we’re $95 million under the spending cap, but every single month things change and we remain very vigilant in watching how spending changes from month to month.”
For next year, the proposed budget calls for a 4% increase in Medicaid–an increase lawmakers had previously agreed upon. In addition, the Governor is proposing shifting the burden of the program away from local counties. Many local county budgets have been swamped by Medicaid costs. On average the counties pay 78% of their budget of property taxes for Medicaid costs. In fact, in some areas the county Medicaid costs are more than the total property tax collection amount.
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