ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York’s Medicaid program is growing faster than it has in six years, according to data from the Department of Health. A quarter of a million new people enrolled in the safety-net health plan from February to May.
There were 260,672 more individuals in the program in May than there were in February. The 4.35% growth rate is the fastest rise since the first four months of 2014, when open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act took full effect.
The Empire Center connects the trend to the recession sparked by the coronavirus, which lost New Yorkers over a million jobs—and the accompanying health care benefits customarily provided by employers. They say that the public health crisis risks compounding New York’s financial problems related to its Medicaid budget.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office in 2011, when 4.7 million were enrolled in Medicaid. Since late 2015, enrollment has remained at around six million. A continued surge in Medicaid enrollment is likely to deepen the state deficit.
Coming into the 2020 legislative session, lawmakers faced a $6.1 billion shortfall. They were already weighing drastic options—tax raises and spending cuts—months before the pandemic hit. The state entered 2020 already in Medicaid debt, as it had rolled payments from one fiscal year into the next month to make the Medicaid program look more solvent than it actually was.
The budget passed in April didn’t adjust for spiking enrollment or plunging revenues. According to the Empire Center, the State Legislature postponed tough financial decisions in the hopes of receiving federal aid. They also gave Cuomo broad authority to borrow and cut at his discretion.
The Albany-based Empire Center for Public Policy is an independent, nonprofit think-tank usually focused on economic policy. Although the Empire Center describes itself as nonpartisan, watchdog groups generally classify it as a conservative-leaning organization.