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Medicaid Director says repealing ACA would be 'ultimate cop-out'

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid director, Jason Helgerson";

The Senate is moving ahead on the repeal and possibly the replacement of the Affordable Care Act, and policy makers in New York are bracing for the worst.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking Tuesday on the Senate floor, painted a grim picture of the current state of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, saying it’s caused pain “for literally millions of families.”

“Premiums have skyrocketed,” McConnell said. “Insurance options have declined.”

He said in some states, there is only one carrier available — and in some cases, there are none.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, said he believes the opposite is true. It’s the repeal and replacement measures that will devastate the health care system, he said.

“It will certainly mean drastic cuts in Medicaid, huge tax cuts for the rich,” Schumer said. “No help for those with pre-existing conditions. And millions and millions losing health care.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid director, Jason Helgerson, agrees that the repeal of Obamacare would be devastating for New York. And he said lawmakers in Washington are reneging on their responsibilities.

“This is the ultimate cop-out,” Helgerson said.

Helgerson, in an interview with public radio and television, said New York’s health care exchange is relatively healthy, and 17 separate plans are offered. But he said New York could lose $8 billion to $9 billion in Medicaid funding each year if the health care expansions under Obamacare are phased out. He said that would blow a hole in the state budget.

“It’s a massive hole that no tax increase could ever fill,” Helgerson said. “It would mean massive cuts in access to health insurance for millions of New Yorkers.”

He said there are no good scenarios that are being seriously considered right now in Washington.

A report commissioned by the Coalition of New York State Public Health Plans finds similar results. It said the state could lose $40 billion in Medicaid funding between now and 2026, under the repeal and replacement plans being considered by the Republican-led Congress. The nonprofit health insurance plans that make up the coalition cover two-thirds of all New Yorkers signed up for coverage under the state’s Obamacare exchanges.

The study, by Manatt Health, estimates that if New York does not come up with the money to make up the difference, two million people in the state eventually would lose their health coverage.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.