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Report shows growing county costs of Medicaid

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

A state database of spending on Medicaid is giving Erie County officials an eye-opening look at poverty across the county.

When the county set up a deal with Albany to establish a County Office of Medicaid Inspector General, it was originally intended to look at spending on the program locally.

In just a few months, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said potential problems, perhaps even criminal, have been found and referred to Albany where such allegations usually disappear.

The county executive said the database also shows the pervasive problem of poverty in the county giving rise to government-financed health care.

"People are hurting out there. There is no doubt about it," Poloncarz said.

"We are seeing more people enroll in the Medicaid system in Erie County than they had in years past. Now, what does this mean when you look at the costs associated with Medicaid. Well, remember the federal government is paying 50 percent of the costs of Medicaid. Erie County is paying less than 20 percent now, which means state government is picking up the rest."

Erie County now pays around 15 percent of Medicaid costs with the state costs constantly rising.

Based on spending in the first four months of this year, the county will pay $220 million as its share of the cost of Medicaid for this year.

The county executive said the largest numbers of people using Medicaid are in the city but on a percentage basis there are large percentages of the population on the program in some of the more rural parts of the county.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.