At the U.S. Capitol.

As the fight over the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act begins in Washington with the swearing-in of the 115th Congress, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his office’s analysis of what the repeal means to New Yorkers — 2.7 million would lose coverage if ACA is repealed and 152,631 of those New Yorkers live in Suffolk County, while Mr. Cuomo says that the state would lose $3.7 billion in revenue, and Suffolk County would lose $18 million in federal funding used to help lower property taxes here.

“The cost of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, to state and local budgets and to the New Yorkers who depend on its health care coverage, is simply too high to justify,” said Mr. Cuomo in a Jan. 4 statement. “Since its implementation, the Affordable Care Act has become a powerful tool to lower the cost of health insurance for local governments and New Yorkers, and it is essential that the federal government does not jeopardize the health and livelihoods of millions of working families.”

East End Congressman Lee Zeldin, long an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, was quick to counter Mr. Cuomo’s argument.

“The governor’s press release fails to state absolutely any acknowledgment whatsoever that the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, is flawed,” he said in a statement in response to Mr. Cuomo’s statement. “Nothing at all is included about any of the lost doctors, cancelled policies, higher premiums or higher deductibles that New Yorkers are now facing.”

Mr. Zeldin pointed to the collapse of Health Republic of New York and a state investigation into Visiting Nurse Service, which had been investigated for overbilling for $224 million in Medicaid claims in 2004-05, which has been selected by the state to operate Medicaid Managed Care Plans in New York City, as prime reasons to disband the Affordable Care Act.

Visiting Nurse Service is currently the subject of a whistleblower lawsuit by a former employee who alleges the agency made hundreds of millions of dollars by falsifying its billing practices. VNS is just one of dozens of companies providing Medicaid Managed Care in New York.

“New York State spends more money on Medicaid than Illinois, Texas and Florida combined. New York has the same population as Florida, but spends more money on Medicaid costs than Florida spends on its entire state budget,” argued Mr. Zeldin.

Mr. Cuomo said that “the New York State of Health exchange has successfully cut the percentage of uninsured New Yorkers in half, from 10 percent to 5 percent. It has also significantly expanded eligibility and access to health coverage, allowing hundreds of thousands of previously uninsured New Yorkers to achieve economic and healthcare security. Based on current enrollment levels, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would result in over 2.7 million New Yorkers losing health coverage.”

Mr. Cuomo also enlisted several agencies representing healthcare providers to speak on behalf of the Affordable Care Act.

“New York’s healthcare workers see the positive impact of the Affordable Care Act every day. Our patients are able to access preventative care instead of coming to emergency rooms in states of advanced illness,” said George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “Our employers have reduced losses from uncompensated care. Our friends and relatives are relieved of the fear that getting sick equals financial ruin. Repealing the Affordable Care Act without an adequate replacement would have immediate and devastating consequences for millions of our fellow New Yorkers and for state and local budgets.”

“These deeply troubling numbers are only the tip of the iceberg if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. It will also severely harm the hospital community,” said Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth E. Raske. “Twenty-seven hospitals across New York State are on a ‘watch list’ for financial stress and many more both public and private face similar fiscal challenges. Repealing the Affordable Care Act without an immediate and adequate replacement plan will make things dramatically worse for safety net hospitals and the vulnerable communities they serve.”

Mr. Zeldin was nonplussed.

“Obamacare is going to be repealed and replaced. If Governor Cuomo has a good idea that productively contributes to the future of health care then I’m totally open to listening,” he said. “In the meantime, he is not part of the solution by conspiring with allies to cook up half baked numbers to scare people about a particular course of action that is divorced from reality.”

“Health care in America must work better and become more affordable, relieving taxpayers of the financial burdens under this failed policy, and give patients more choices, while still continuing to cover Americans with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parent’s policy,” he added. “This is an ongoing process and I am willing to work with anyone on either side of the aisle to strike an appropriate balance not only for Long Island and New York, but for all Americans. In the meantime, Governor Cuomo needs to dedicate way more of his time getting his own house in order, because it’s a house of cards right now that is filling Albany’s swamp rather than draining it.”

Republicans in the Senate plan next week to pass a budget resolution that would keep the legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act safe from Democratic filibuster, allowing it to pass with a simple majority, after which House Republicans plan to approve a similar resolution.

The resolution would give congressional committees until late January to prepare a fast-track reconciliation bill to repeal ACA, at which time incoming President Donald Trump is expected to also announce executive orders on health care, though Mr. Trump’s staff has not yet provided the details of those orders. 

Vice President-elect Mike Pence told reporters Jan. 4 that he expects a replacement health care plan to rely more on personal health care savings accounts and association health plans sponsored by trade associations.

New York Senator Charles Schumer, the new Senate Minority Leader, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Bernie Sanders are urging Democratic members of Congress to organize rallies around the country on Jan. 15 to oppose Republicans’ health care plans.

“The plan to cut health care wouldn’t make America great again. it would make America sick again, and lead to chaos instead of affordable care,” said Mr. Schumer in a press conference Jan. 4. “There still isn’t a plan to replace it on the table, because they don’t have one.”

“Democrats will fight them at every turn to prevent this from happening,” he said.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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