With a new year comes new opportunities. In our county this year, we will see many new developments, from shovel- ready sites at Tryon and Hales Mills Road to affordable housing at Estee and a renaissance for the Gloversville Library. We remain focused on keeping government efficient, building opportunities for our residents, and ensuring the health and safety of all. But amid great developments in our community comes a great deal of uncertainty on the federal level.
A recent edition of The Leader-Herald brought news that the work of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has begun. Repealing without preserving the successful aspects of the program and replacing them with effective alternatives risks leaving many people uninsured and would devastate the county’s efforts at reducing property taxes.
The law is not without its flaws, but among its successes, more than 20 million people nationwide have gained access to healthcare. Locally, this means that thousands of people who were previously uninsured received the care they need. The vast majority of these are people who are employed; they had earned too much for Medicaid eligibility but did not make enough to purchase insurance for their families on their own.
I personally know of someone who, after obtaining health insurance for the first time in over a decade, went to the doctor and received a cancer diagnosis. They were successfully treated and they’re alive and well today because of the ACA.
Within Fulton County alone, 5,952 people — more than a 10th of the population — could lose their healthcare under a repeal. Beyond the life-saving benefits of healthcare, the ACA supports the operations of local health facilities, mental health clinics, and the availability of doctors in rural areas like ours.
Locally, in Fulton County, we have benefitted from the ACA’s reimbursement formula, which New York’s Congressional delegation successfully fought for. Even as more people in the county are gaining insurance and our public health outcomes are increasing, greater federal funding has meant that our costs for Medicaid — still our single largest expense — have fallen by more than $1 million a year for each of the past two years.
According to calculations from the NYS Association of Counties, “the cumulative loss of federal funds for counties over five years from a full repeal of the existing ACA Medicaid provisions would be nearly $2.9 billion and likely exceed $6 billion over 10 years.”
In Fulton County in 2016 alone, these federal funds kept $703,918 off the tax levy.
The impact of a hasty repeal without appropriate replacement will have drastic consequences for the lives of our residents, our health facilities, and our property taxes. I encourage my fellow residents who are likewise concerned about these impacts to share these concerns with our Congressional representatives.
You can reach Sen. Schumer’s office at (202) 224-6542, Sen. Gillibrand’s office at (518) 431-0120, and Rep. Stefanik’s at (518) 743-0964.
Gregory Young (D-Glovers-ville) represents Gloversville’s Fifth Ward on the Fulton County Board of Supervisors.