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Senate starts looking at runaway Medicaid costs

A statue stands in front of the New

A statue stands in front of the New York State Capitol building in Albany, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Budget talks among New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders broke down on March 21, as senate co-leader Dean Skelos said there's too much focus on New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio's pre-kindergarten plan. Photographer: Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg Credit: Bloomberg/Ron Antonelli

Daily Point

Cutting their losses

The fear among New York State county executives about just what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has in mind to prune the burgeoning cost of Medicaid, right now about $77 billion dollars and 16 percent over budget, is palpable. Cuomo called current spending “unsustainable” in his State of the State address last week, causing seismic shakes in Albany about who will be the winners and losers. The second floor has been tight-lipped about what Cuomo meant, but clearly the governor’s remark that “It is too easy to write a check when you don’t sign it” means that local governments will have to have some skin in the game. There is concern that counties and New York City will have to start picking up some of the costs.

State lawmakers are being pressed by their local elected officials for more information and the Democratic State Senate majority conference is so concerned about the fallout that its Health Committee members are getting an unusual closed-door briefing late Monday afternoon from Medicaid Director Donna Frescatore. She is expected to give them some details about how Medicaid mushroomed out of control after the state said family members could be paid to take care of their relatives and how SEIU Local 1199 worked with New York City officials to aggressively sign up beneficiaries.  

The briefing is a sign that the State Senate is Cuomo’s best shot to tighten eligibility rules and require the counties to slow the growth of Medicaid or be liable for increased costs. The Assembly’s initial answer to any need for cuts is to raise taxes.

—Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Talking Point

Who said it? Day 4

Our Democratic presidential contender books quiz continues this week with a lesson that candidates learned from an obstacle in their lives. You can view the answers to every day's question here

Now that New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker dropped his presidential bid, he has been eliminated from the quiz as well but not before we share a passage from his 2016 book: Booker once witnessed a man being shot in Newark, and the victim died in his arms: “I laid him on the grass and put my hands on his chest trying to stop the blood that seemed to be coming from everywhere.” Booker writes that the impact of urban gun violence affected him. 

Here’s lessons learned by three other mystery candidates who are still in the race: 

  1. This candidate was trying to get an infrastructure bill passed in Congress but needed to convince Republicans. “I put together a PowerPoint presentation, preparing my pitch much the same way I would have done when I worked in the private sector. Then I asked for meetings with every Republican in the House — all 233 of them.”
  2. This candidate drew this lesson from a former opponent who lost sight of what an economic policy would do: “To me, the whole episode was about what happens when a public official becomes obsessed with ideology and forgets that the chessboard on which he is playing out his strategy is, to a great many people, their own life story.”
  3. As a young parent, this candidate had a hard time commuting to law school: “a long drive through back-to-back towns, dotted with stoplights and school zones and tangled traffic. Then, just a couple of months before the fall term began, a new section of the interstate highway opened,” which allowed the candidate to zip from home to school in 25 minutes. It showed the candidate the importance of public infrastructure. “If it is possible to love a highway, I loved that highway.”

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

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Quick Points

  • Sen. Cory Booker has dropped out of the Democratic primary process. The fact that his plea for peace, love and unity apparently did not resonate with voters tells you where the country is right now.
  • President Donald Trump has contended that Iran planned to attack four U.S. embassies, but Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other top administration officials said they did not see evidence of that. The reason they saw no evidence is perhaps the least mysterious thing about the entire affair.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders’ non-aggression pact with rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren seems dead with Sanders’ campaign now attacking Warren as a candidate of the elite. Given Sanders’ history, is anyone really surprised?
  • Boeing’s terminated chief executive Dennis Muilenburg left his job with equity and pension benefits and stock options totaling $80.5 million but forfeited a severance package of $14.6 million. And now we know the cost — and profit — of gross failure at that level.
  • The White House has invited at least 200 people to Wednesday’s signing ceremony for the Phase 1 trade agreement with China. Imagine how many would be invited to the signing of a real trade deal.
  • White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien says U.S. troops need to leave Iraq in a scenario in which the Islamic State is “fully eliminated.” Wait, didn’t your boss say we did that already? O’Brien also channeled administration hopes to resurrect nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea, saying he is cautiously optimistic that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has not yet delivered his ominous promised “Christmas present.” True, but Kim never said which Christmas.
  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is willing to spend up to $1 billion to defeat President Donald Trump in November, even if he does not win the Democratic nomination. Wonder whether each of his rivals will match his commitment, in energy if not in money, if they don’t win.

–Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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