Get Medicaid right before talking tax

Three audits released last week by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli should give even the most ardent Democrat reason pause regarding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threatened Faso-Collins Medicaid tax.

Cuomo has threatened the tax in retaliation for legislation introduced by Republican Congressmen John Faso and Chris Collins that would end the practice of counties paying part of the state’s bill for Medicaid. Rather than discuss changes to the program, Cuomo has threatened levying a state tax to make up the counties’ share.

Not only is New York’s Medicaid program especially generous, but there are many who feel the system is full of waste that drives up the cost for taxpayers. Last week, DiNapoli released audits detailing nearly $74 million in improper Medicaid claims. In one, auditors found the state Health Department overpaid $1.485 million for improper pharmacy claims through one pharmacy and a related prescriber for excess amounts of pharmaceutical drugs, claims for drugs in which the prescriptions were missing or invalid, and claims for unauthorized and inappropriate refills. Another audit found 190,686 improper or questionable premium payments totaling about $72.6 million between Oct. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2014 — $10.5 million of which related to 7,415 Medicaid recipients who had died. There are still 176,477 premium payments totaling $65.2 million that need to be analyzed.

It is one thing to levy taxes for programs that have a defined need and which we know will be used properly. Right now, Medicaid is a program for which there is a definite need, but no way to confirm is being used properly by those who need it. Until New York state gets serious about wringing such waste out of its Medicaid system, it should not levy one penny of additional tax out of its residents to pay for the program.