Health/Medicaid

Last Monday’s budget hearing was on the Executive Budget proposals relating to health and Medicaid spending.

Much of the hearing focused on the Administration’s efforts to restructure the state’s health system to reduce costs while improving the quality of services. Some legislators expressed concerns regarding the Administration’s proposal to eliminating the Physician Profile web site, through which consumers can research doctors, to save $1.2 million. State officials said that the information on the site is available to consumers elsewhere.

The Executive Budget proposal also includes a new tax on health-insurance policies – which Unshackle Upstate strongly opposes — to pay for the administrative costs of maintaining the state’s health care exchange. It is intended to collect about $69 million to make up for federal funds no longer available to the states as of this year.

Elementary & Secondary Education

Later in the week, the State Education Department (SED) urged legislators to increase school aid by almost 10% in 2015-16. Acting Education Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin testified that a $2 billion increase in school aid would help provide an equal education for all students – rich and poor. The increase would also provide $250 million for full-day universal pre-kindergarten; $86 million for English language learners; and $80 million for strengthening teacher and leader effectiveness through professional development. (SED’s presentation can be viewed here.)

Gov. Cuomo has proposed a 4.8% increase in school aid for the 2015-16 fiscal year, a $1 billion increase that would bring the state’s total school aid to more than $23 billion. However, the Governor has tied this proposed school aid increase to the Legislature taking action on number of education reforms.