Picente: County Won’t Pay Medicaid Bill

State’s Stall on Payments, Inaction on Budget Forces Oneida County to Defend Its Fiscal Position 

In a letter to Governor Paterson, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr. has informed the governor that Oneida County is refusing to make its weekly Medicaid payments. This comes after the State Government’s delay in making appropriate payments to the county, and the almost four month overdue state budget. The move is an attempt to protect the fiscal integrity that County Government has worked hard to establish, through hard work and shared sacrifice.

“In Oneida County, while we have succeeded over the past four years in strengthening our financial situation, recent actions (or rather inactions) by State government are threatening to destroy our credit rating and our ability to properly serve our residents,” Picente wrote.
 
“As of this writing, the State of New York owes Oneida County in excess of$30 million,” he added. “The total cash reserve this county has on hand to deal with this burden is slightly over $24 million. In short, we are running out of cash and out of time. The options before us are limited. We have cut positions, restricted purchases, delayed payments to our vendors and amended contracts to defer payments. We are at the brink of shutting down County government. The other option that some counties have used and others are considering is to borrow to alleviate this crisis. I simply refuse to take such action at this time.”
 
Picente said that his actions reflect not anger at the state, but a determination to stand up for matters of principle and to protect the financial and structural well being of Oneida County.
 
Picente told Paterson that Oneida County recently received an upgrade in its credit rating – the first in seven years. New borrowing to cover a hole caused by state inaction on paying what is owed will cause that rating to be downgraded, he said. Picente noted that Oneida County has maintained its fiscal position despite the major costs to comply with a state consent order regarding a Sanitary Sewer Overflow, a project that could cost $160 million; the lack of a resolution to the fiscal implications of long-standing disputes with the Oneida Indian Nation and the costs of moving forward with major economic development projects.
 
“… we cannot continue to burden our taxpayers for problems that we did not create,” Picente informed the Governor. “As such, please consider this letter as notification that the County of Oneida will not make its Medicaid payments to the State as required on a weekly basis. I have ordered the Commissioner of Finance to suspend those money transfers until we receive adequate reimbursement from the State to alleviate immediate cash flow concerns. While the amount held is not near that which is owed to us, it will help this cash-strapped County continue to provide services without jeopardizing our financial future. I take this action reluctantly, but I do so in keeping with my responsibility to deliver needed services to the people of Oneida County.”