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New York lawmakers bitterly divided over healthcare changes

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Payne Horning
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WRVO News
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visits with Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow. Hochul is among a chorus of Democratic New York lawmakers rebuking a Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

New York officials are split over the Republican's proposed replacement to the Affordable Care Act and how it will impact the state. As the House of Representatives prepares for the scheduled vote on the legislation, state and federal leaders are fighting to sway the public to their side.

During a trip to Oswego Wednesday, Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said New Yorkers should ask their Republican representatives to oppose the GOP's healthcare legislation. She says the bill's proposed cuts to Medicaid could cost New York billions and harm the 7 million residents who benefit from the healthcare law. 

Hochul says that loss would be compounded by an amendment from New York Rep. Chris Collins that would end federal reimbursements for the share of Medicaid costs that New York counties currently pay, effectively leaving the state with a $2.3 billion tab.

"We don't know why Republican members of Congress from the state of New York have turned their backs on the people they represent and are willing to stick a knife in us," Hochul said. "This is very serious. We literally have hours to go [before the vote]."

The amendment was offered to sway reluctant New York Republicans. Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) says with that and other changes, she's now leaning toward supporting the bill. Tenney says this change will finally end an unfunded mandate that the former assemblywoman has long railed against.

"It's something that has really hurt our local governments and their ability to survive in this difficult circumstances and provide their services," Tenney said. "So simply what we would like to do is give that share back to the state."

The bill's sponsors have been offering changes in order to round up support for the plan from members of the House in swing districts like Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro). Both have expressed  concerns about the legislation's ramifications for their constituents. A Katko spokesperson says despite the proposed changes, the Republican remains a firm no on the replacement bill.

But Democratic New York members of Congress like Sen. Charles Schumer say these tweaks mean nothing because repealing the Affordable Care Act is a mistake.

"What our Republican congressional delegation should be doing is not pointing fingers at who should bear these cuts, because it will ultimately be New York taxpayers and New York citizens, but solve the problems and get rid of these cuts," Schumer said. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.