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Speaking up for health care

More than 20 New York state legislators have joined about 450 state legislators from across the country to sign a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the constitutionality of the federal Affordable Care Act.

"The challenge to the Affordable Care Act now before the Supreme Court has a lot more to do with politics than with the Constitution," said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried. "The Affordable Care Act has been upheld by judges from across the ideological spectrum, and it is working for families across the country."

He said the legislation has been a boon for four million seniors and for children under the age of 26 who are able to stay on their parents' health insurance.

The next step in implementing the Affordable Care Act is the creation of a health exchange, which would serve as a marketplace for health insurance. Legislation creating an exchange passed the Assembly in June of 2011, but did not move in the state Senate. State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, predicts the state Senate will approve an exchange once the legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act are resolved.

As state and local legislators rally around proposals to have the state take over the counties' role in Medicaid, the New York State Association of Counties has identified the ways and means for the state to absorb the $7.3 billion cost.

“With the recent Medicaid reforms enacted by the state and billions of dollars in new federal resources provided by the Affordable Care Act, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the way New York State finances its $56 billion Medicaid program," said NYSAC President Mary Pat Hancock.

NYSAC is proposing that the state implements some of the cost-saving measures suggested by the Medicaid Redesign Team, pursue a federal waiver to leverage funds and allow federal health care reforms to apply to more New Yorkers, such as the $18 billion in new federal resources that Gov. Andrew Cuomo said can be obtained from the Affordable Care Act.

The Empire Center, a fiscally conservative watchdog, has set its sights on the Triborough Amendment. In a report released today, it details what it says are the costs the 30-year-old mandate has placed on the state by requiring step increases in wages when a union contract expires.

Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc, said the report exposed the reality of this amendment and the fact that it should be repealed. "New York can no longer afford public employees' pay to continue to increase under an expired contract, placing additional burdens on the state school districts and municipalities," she said in a press release.

The full report can be read here.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will release his proposed budget at 2 p.m. on January 17 and the legislative public hearings on his budget will begin on January 23 at 10 a.m., with the first focus on elementary and secondary education. The final of 13 hearings will be Feb. 14.

Follow all of The Daily Gazette's political coverage on Twitter at @GazettePolitics.

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