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Governor Cuomo and NY Legislature Agree to Medicaid Cuts During Coronavirus Pandemic

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast was joined by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo at MTA New York City Transit Headquarters on Thu., October 24, 2013 to announce a joint campaign to promote tourism in areas that have recovered from Superstorm Sandy. [#//new.mta.info/news-i-love-ny-metrocards-lirr-metro-north-subway-buses-superstorm-sandy/2013/10/24/new-i-love-ny” Come See The Comeback] Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit Date: 24 October 2013, 14:54 Source: "Come See The Comeback" campaign Author: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York

“It’s a shot in the gut.”

As coronavirus cripples America with New York at the epicenter of the outbreak, New York legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed to a state budget that will cut the state’s Medicaid program.

During his daily coronavirus press conference, Cuomo said, “This is a particularly difficult budget because there is no money and there is much fear and there is much stress.”

But Cuomo has long been in favor of drastic cuts to the state’s Medicaid program, and he went as far as to say that he would reject $6.7 billion in federal aid because it would not allow him to ‘redesign’ the state’s Medicaid system. Hospitals have also expressed concern and said Cuomo’s policy pursuits will cause millions of dollars in losses for hospitals around the state.

“It’s a shot in the gut,” Dr. Perlstein, chief executive officer of St. Barnabas Hospital, said to the New York Times about the prospect of losing millions of dollars. “During a time I need to commit all the energy I have to really save lives and expand access and not skimp on resources, now I have to worry about how we’re going to continue to pay our bills.”

Some New York legislators strongly disagreed with Cuomo’s tactics and wrote a letter to the Governor’s office calling the cuts to hospitals, “cruel, inhumane, and unacceptable.”

As of April 2nd, the state of New York has 92,743 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,538 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University. New York has over 10,000 more confirmed cases than China, where the coronavirus originated, and New Yorkers are expecting the peak of cases in about a week.

Balancing the Budget During a Crisis

Medicaid insures approximately one-third of New Yorkers, and with unemployment levels going sky-high, pitching balance budgeting while the federal government bails out corporations seems an odd choice.

Governor Cuomo has long been concerned about balancing the state budget and slashing Medicaid, and an unprecedented public health crisis has not changed his tune.

Since the outbreak, he has pivoted slightly to say that the state cannot access the $6.7 billion in federal aid due to how the law is written. However, that claim has been called into question.

This includes State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried who told The Gothamist, “Every piece of legislation the governor submitted to us has a clause saying that the budget director can delay implementation of any of these provisions if necessary. Which means that if any of them would interfere with drawing down the federal increased Medicaid dollars we would be able to delay implementation until the federal money stops coming.”

Press Relations

While cutting Medicaid during a pandemic seems like a public relations nightmare, Cuomo’s public-facing actions during the crisis have drawn praise from many Democratic circles.

Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher tweeted, “Let’s go to the bullpen and bring in a real ace. Biden should step aside and let @NYGovCuomo be the nominee!”

As Joe Biden has faltered in media appearances, Andrew Cuomo has taken over the role as the most prominent Democrat during a time of national crisis. Cuomo has even overtaken Bernie Sanders in betting markets to become the Democratic presidential candidate.

Governor Cuomo did deny he would be running for president in 2020 on his brother’s CNN show, but the fact the question is even asked shows that his press offensive during the coronavirus crisis has immensely increased his national profile.

As seen in the latest New York state budget talks, Cuomo does pitch policy positions that seem at odds with the general population. While Sanders has lost ground during the Democratic primary, Medicare-For-All enjoys majority approval across the country.

Alec Pronk

Alec is a freelance writer with an interest in both geopolitics and American domestic issues. He finished his Master's degree with a critical focus on government counterterrorism policies.

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