Ulster County Exec Issues Order Regarding Health Care

Mar 17, 2017

The Ulster County executive has issued an executive order calling for a report on the public health impacts repealing the Affordable Care Act would have on the county’s residents. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne reports a public hearing on the topic has already been scheduled.

Democratic Ulster County Executive Mike Hein believes changes in federal health policy could pose a risk to his county’s residents and budget.

“The biggest public threat to the people’s health in Ulster County today is the elimination of the ACA and the replacement of this, again, ill-conceived model that’s been brought forward,” Hein says.

A Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act moved closer Thursday to a full House vote after passing the budget committee. Again, Hein.

“When I think about the congressional, independent Congressional Budget Office laying out that 20+ million people being without health care by 2026, it’s very concerning. But it’s more about what it means at the most local level,” Hein says. “And so, when the commissioner of public health came to me and said, we have a public threat as a result of this, it became glaringly obvious that we had to do something about it.”

And doing something about it translated into Hein’s issuance of an executive order empowering Ulster County Commissioner of Health and Mental Health Dr. Carol Smith to garner information from all county departments to assess public health and fiscal impacts of the potential repeal of key provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

“Making sure that she has the capacity to garner all the information necessary with all county departments to address both the impact that the elimination of the ACA has on our hospitals, nursing homes and health care centers, in addition to that the impact it will have on the county budget but, most of all, the impact that it’s going to have on children, women, seniors, families, the disabled, and a whole host of other people who are going to be negatively impacted by this,” says Hein.

A report from Smith is due 30 days from the issuance of the March 13 order. Plus, Smith will hold a public hearing to inform her report March 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Ulster County Office Building on Fair Street. Hein says representatives from the offices of Republican Congressman John Faso and Democratic U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are expected to attend.

Meanwhile, Faso, whose 19th district includes Ulster County, voted Thursday in favor of the House Budget Committee’s American Health Care Act. Faso, in a statement, called the vote a procedural step saying, “The Budget Committee cannot amend the legislation under the rules of reconciliation; the committee merely determines whether it complied with the rules. A ‘no’ vote would have cut off discussion rather than advance positive changes to the underlying bill for the families and small businesses of the 19th District.” 

Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney from the neighboring 18th House District lambasted the GOP plan on WAMC’s Congressional Corner.

“What they have proposed doesn’t make sense. You would throw 24 million people off their insurance, 14 million just next year,” says Maloney. “You would take $880 billion under the Republican proposal out of Medicaid, that blows a hole in the state budget of New York, by the way.”

Maloney says the ACA could use some fixes, but not the ones proposed.

“Its biggest sin is that it does nothing to fix what’s wrong with the Affordable Care Act and to bring down the cost of healthcare and to make coverage more affordable for people, to lower deductibles, to lower the cost of prescription drugs, to make the markets where there aren’t enough providers more competitive. Those are the real problems,” Maloney says. “This bill cuts taxes on the rich and hurts good programs like Medicare, Medicaid, like Planned Parenthood. It’s a terrible bill and it doesn’t fix the problem.”

Faso says he will continue to review the legislation and gather input from constituents, providers and insurers.

Meanwhile, members of Citizen Action of New York had planned a protest at noon Friday in front of Faso’s Kingston office following his vote Thursday. And County Executive Hein was scheduled to join health care advocates and workers at the county courthouse in Kingston, also at noon, to highlight the importance of Medicaid funding and the impact federal cuts to Medicaid would have on senior citizens and working families.