Legislature's Budget Agreement Includes Chemung's Medicaid Demonstration Project

George Winner

March 29, 2006

Albany, N.Y.-- State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) today said that the Legislature’s agreed-upon 2006-07 state budget will authorize a Medicaid Demonstration Project in Chemung County that will allow the county to better manage and police local Medicaid services, potentially saving up to $10 million in local Medicaid spending without cutting recipient benefits.

"This agreement places Chemung County squarely on the leading edge of Medicaid reform in New York State. The success of this effort will help pave the way to a more effective, less wasteful and less expensive system of Medicaid. It’s a true victory for local property taxpayers and for the quality of local health care," said Winner, a longtime Medicaid reform advocate. "It signals the beginning of a real turnaround in how we administer New York’s Medicaid program."

Following a week of intense negotiations with state Assembly leaders, Winner said that the Legislature’s final state budget agreement, scheduled to be approved and delivered to Governor George Pataki by the end of the week, will authorize the Chemung County Medicaid Demonstration Project. Pataki has already embraced the project, which was developed and advanced over the past few years by Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli following an in-depth study of local Medicaid expenses that utilized state-of-the-art computer technology developed by the Horseheads-based Salient Corporation. The demonstration project will authorize an independent agency, the Rochester-based Excellus insurance company, to help Chemung better administer, manage and monitor the provision of local Medicaid services.

Winner credited Santulli's perseverance for focusing a state-level commitment to ongoing Medicaid reform.

"Tom Santulli has been a grassroots leader on the Medicaid reform issue, and his ideas have earned enormous respect," said Winner. "We need to continue to encourage a state-local partnership that keeps removing the Medicaid burden off of our local property taxpayers."

Winner said that last year's state budget initiated a comprehensive Medicaid reform strategy that included a cap on local expenses. This local Medicaid cap is already being credited with helping to restrain local property tax increases in counties locally and statewide. A recent state comptroller's report, for example, said that county property taxes this year increased an average of 3.3 percent as a result of the local cap, compared to 7 percent increases during the previous five years. Property taxpayers in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties will save approximately $4.6 million this year because of the state-approved local Medicaid cap, according to the comptroller's report.