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Lieutenant Governor sounds warning on repealing Obamacare

Posted by Karen DeWitt on

The state’s Lieutenant Governor says New Yorkers should be deeply worried if the US Senate approves a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Health Care Act, also knows as Obamacare.

Currently, the Senate does not have the votes for the GOP plan, but Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul says that doesn’t mean opponents of the measure should be complacent.

“This is heading down a path that is very disturbing,” said Hochul who sarcastically said she has some advice for people if the repeal and replacement is approved.

“Don’t get sick,” she said. “And definitely don’t get old.”

Hochul says New York stands to lose up to $7 b a year in aid for Medicaid recipients and other related health plans. That would impact hospitals and nursing homes, which are the largest employer in many communities.  The state health department estimates that one million poor and working and middle-class New Yorkers could lose coverage.

Hochul says only the ultra-rich would benefit from the plan receiving, on average a $3700 tax cut.  

“If you are top 1% of income earners, you’re just high fiving it,” Hochul said.

The House of Representatives struggled to pass a repeal and replacement plan earlier this year until they came up with some amendments that would pull in enough yes votes, and the Senate is now expected to do the same. One of those amendments was crafted to gain the support of two upstate New York Congressman, Chris Collins and John Faso. It would require New York State to pay for the counties’ share of Medicaid costs, at a price tag of $2.3 b a year. Hochul calls it a “betrayal” and a “disgrace”.

“Who goes to Washington to bring less back to their state, less back to their districts?” she asked. “Who does that?”

Collins and Faso contend that county property taxpayers will benefit from the plan by seeing their taxes go down.

Hochul in 2011 and 12 held the Congressional seat now occupied by to Collins. She lost the election to him partly due to her vote for Obamacare. She says she’s happy being lieutenant governor, though, and does not foresee a rematch.  

Bill Hammond, with the fiscal watchdog group the Empire Center, agrees that the state stands to lose billions of dollars under the Senate’s health care plan. He says, in fact, New York, which has a larger Medicaid budget than most states, would be more severely penalized under the Senate plan than most other states. The Senate version would enact a stricter Medicaid funding limit on higher-spending states, than on states that spend smaller amounts on government-financed health care.

“It says ‘if you’re spending per enrollee is more than 25% above the national average, you’re going to take a little extra hair cut on your federal aid’,” Hammond said.

It adds up to billions of dollars over the years that New York would lose in federal funding.

Hammond says the governor and legislature would have to make some big changes in the state budget in order to cope. Options include cutting health care benefits, trimming payments to providers, or raising taxes, all politically thorny.

After health care, the next largest portion of the budget is an aid to education, which would also be politically difficult to cut.  

Hochul says she’s not ready yet to discuss potential cuts in the state budget, she believes the Senate vote can be stopped. She cites a recent poll that found only 17 percent of Americans actually want to repeal the ACA. And she says she’s hearing the same from some of her own constituents, including at a recent visit to a diner in a rural part of Western New York, where many former opponents of Obamacare now don’t want lose their benefits.

Hochul says Senators are “tone deaf” if they don’t heed those views.  

New York’s two Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, oppose the Senate Republican plan and have offered their own scathing assessments.   

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