Concerns about public budgets seems to be a perennial problem. There is never a time when worries about how much public coffers are taking in and spending are not making headlines and spurring debate. Of course now is no exception, as policymakers at the local, state, and federal level are all working on packages and potential legal changes to shore up public finances.
Public care service programs like Medicaid are usually implicated in one way or another in these discussions, because they represents one of the most substantial components of the budget. Viewed through that lens it is perhaps not surprising that a new state report released last week listed Medicaid (among other things) as “overwhelming” state and local budgets.
New Report on Long-Term Financial Health
A non-partisan group–the State Budget Crisis Task Force–released the report last week which was summarized in a Reuters story. The full report can be found here.
According to the article, the main claim is that costs for a set number of programs–including Medicaid, public retirement programs, and education–are rising far faster than revenues. Obviously this creates an unsustainable dynamic, as any public body can only last so long when they are spending more than they are taking in. New York’s Lieutenant Governor summarized the situation thusly: “Healthcare costs and retirement costs are rising a lot faster than revenue. And unless one sees something on the horizon that will change that essential dynamic, then that means we’re not on a sustainable path.”
Unique New York
The task force report examined many different states. One thing that makes New York unique is the size of its Medicaid program (the largest in the country) and the fact that local governments contribute to the program (the majority of states do not operate in that way). Taken together, this has driven some localities into budgetary trouble. The story indicates that at least 6 New York cities and counties may need state intervention to get out of their fiscal mess. They include Nassau, Suffolk, and the cities of Yonkers and Syracuse.
In recent years the state has engaged in various changes in order to control costs. Critics suggest that the changes will not lower overall costs, just shift the burden to providers. However, it is still too early to make any definite suggestions about changes that might be in the works and how those changes might affect actual New Yorkers.
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