Area state senator wants Medicaid reform

Mar 15, 2013

No state spends more on Medicaid than New York, earning it the nickname of the Cadillac of Medicaid programs. But that may soon end. One of the reasons the state spends $54 billion a years on the federal health care program for the poor, are 31 optional services that the state can sign on for -- ranging from transportation, to prescription drugs, to private nurses.

But one central New York lawmaker believes the time may be ripe to make some changes.

Syracuse Republican State Senator John DeFrancisco has been talking about these optional services for three years now. His favorite story right now comes from a central New York hospital.

"There's a provision that you can get a voucher for a taxi cab to get you out of the hospital, if you don't have a car back to our home, if you're under a certain income. For some reason, this person could not get a voucher, so they sent her home in an ambulance. Think about that for a minute. How incredible is that?" he asked.

DeFrancisco tells stories like this to push his contention that the state spends too much on Medicaid -- specifically these optional services that are not required by the federal government, but are required by Albany.

The problem is, he can't get precise figures from the Cuomo administration on how much those optional services cost. He's hoping to meet with budget department officials soon to get that information. And in the meantime, he believes the federal government's recent bill to New York state for millions in overpayments the state made to the Medicaid program, may push the envelope.

"I really think it's gonna happen, because the federal government just sent a bill to the state of New York for a half a billion dollars because we overcharged for Medicaid and we gotta pay that back. So it puts us in a bigger hole in trying to resolve this budget on time," said the senator.

DeFrancisco says any change to Medicaid won't affect this year's budget, but will help in future years.