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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Finish one, start the next"
ALBANY, June 27 -- I’ve said from the beginning of the 2011 legislative session, my first as a state senator, that no matter how many changes and reforms are put in place this year, the governor and the Legislature won’t get it all right, all at once. And as this year’s session concludes, that’s the case.
We’ve clearly taken steps to refocus state government’s commitment to Medicaid reform, upstate property tax and mandate relief, a stronger economy and a streamlined bureaucracy. Overall it’s been positive for taxpayers. But all this earns the Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo is time to start again and the chance to keep building the momentum to do more, and do it better.
That's especially true, now, in the area of providing our localities with more significant relief from the state-imposed mandates that have been out of control for decades. I stated on the floor of the Senate last Friday night, with this year's session winding down, that while we've made a start on mandate relief, we've still a long ways to go (you can view my floor comments in their entirety on my website, www.omara.nysenate.gov). In fact, more significant mandate relief remains priority No. 1 in state government.
So I’ll start this look-ahead by refocusing on an issue that’s going to stay on the Capitol’s radar. For me, it means an ongoing focus on the state’s No. 1 expense and the largest unfunded mandate on localities: Medicaid. It remains timely. The New York Times recently noted that the end of June also marks the end, for states across America, of an influx of federal stimulus funding that over the past two years bumped up the average federal share of Medicaid spending nationwide from 57 percent to 67 percent. These additional federal dollars dry up in about a week.
Which is why it was so important for New York that this year’s
state budget set in motion the most significant redesign of Medicaid ever
attempted. It’s a system, as noted time and time again, that today
costs taxpayers more than one billion dollars a week. It’s a system
that continues to sap the budgets of local government in alarming ways.
In short, we started 2011 with an out-of-control Medicaid system. Recognizing
this, the governor put in place a Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) that successfully
proposed this year’s enacted reforms and, equally important, remains
at work. You can follow this effort through the following website:
Still, there’s a nagging question for many of us: are we doing enough? So I’ve been pushing – and will keep pushing – for:
– the more widespread use of modern technology like the computer
software developed and continually fine-tuned by the Horseheads-based
Salient Corporation. There’s no magic bullet – you don’t
install the software and watch the problem clean itself up – but
the Salient technology
-- the reinstatement of the eligibility requirements for face-to-face interviews, finger-imaging and asset tests for Medicaid applicants that were once conducted by counties but that were eliminated as part the 2009-10 state budget. It’s time to bring them back; and, finally,
-- legislation (S.5787), which I have introduced with local Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, that would effectively freeze local Medicaid costs by requiring the state to pick up the total cost of future Medicaid growth. The idea behind this move is that if it’s the state’s responsibility, then the state will become more aggressive at fighting fraud and waste, and even more intent on redesigning the system.
So as one session finishes, we need to get right to work getting ready for the next one. If anyone needed another reminder about the urgency of ongoing Medicaid reform, the message from the recent New York Times article delivers it: the sooner, the better.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869