Cuomo taking on national issues of health care and climate change

Sep 21, 2017

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again wading into national issues this week. He’s had a press conference against the latest attempt in the U.S. Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. And he met with the governors of California and Washington to discuss steps to slow climate change.

In both cases, the governor said he’s addressing the matters because the actions — or, in the case of climate change, inactions — in Washington have a harmful impact on New York.

On health care, Cuomo said a law that expires on Sept. 30 will mean a funding drop of $1.1 billion in the next 18 months to New York’s public and safety net hospitals, which serve the state’s poorest. That’s because a law that permitted the payments under the Medicaid program is expiring.

“There is no way the state can pick up this cost,” Cuomo said. “The state is already facing a $4 billion deficit going into next year.”

Congress would have to act to renew the law that allows the funding, something that has occurred in the past. But Cuomo said this time, passage is very uncertain in a “gridlocked” House and Senate.

“That’s why this is frightening,” the governor said.

The law’s expiration comes as the Senate is considering another plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (second from right) meets with Govs. Jerry Brown and Jay Inslee and former Secretary of State John Kerry in his office in New York City.
Credit New York State Governor's Office

The Graham-Cassidy bill would eliminate the ACA’s Medicaid expansion program, as well as the ACA’s health care exchanges set up for individuals to buy insurance. It would replace the programs with Medicaid block grants to states, so they have more flexibility to set their own rules on coverage and insurance pools. The governor said New York stands to lose $19 billion if the measure is approved.

“If I was as flexible as a Gumby doll, I could not fund our health care system,” Cuomo said.

The governor said 2.7 million New Yorkers could lose their health coverage if the bill passes, and more than a million health care-related jobs would be at risk. The Graham-Cassidy measure also defunds Planned Parenthood for a year, which could force some clinics out of business.

The next day, the governor met in his office with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee about the recently formed U.S. Climate Alliance. Fifteen states and U.S. territories and several mayors of major cities have allied to enact the greenhouse gas reduction principles outlined in the Paris Climate Accord, after President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement.

Brown said the group is “on track” to meet the guidelines with a 24 percent to 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2025.

“You can’t deny science forever,” Brown said. “You can’t deny reality.”

Cuomo, who seldom mentions Trump directly, called the current federal government the “most ignorant” ever.

Inslee went further, saying the states and cities now in the alliance represent 40 percent of the U.S. economy, and, if combined, would be the third-largest economy in the world. And he said the president has no authority over the group’s actions.

“He can’t stop our caps, he can’t stop our cap and trades, he can’t stop our incentives,” Inslee said. “Because, bottom line, the United States is much more than the sum of its tweets.”

Cuomo also was joined by former Secretary of State John Kerry, who said major industries also are committed to following the Paris Accord, not Trump’s lead.