County officials support USMCA passage

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday supported federal passage of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

The board voted at the County Office Building to urge area representatives in Congress to pursue “swift ratification” of the USMCA.

Supporters of the agreement say it improves upon the 1994 North American Trade Agreement. It still awaits Congressional approval and the president’s signature.

Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Gregory Young said “some progress” is made with the USMCA. But he said he remains “concerned” about protection for brand name drugs being traded among the nations.

Young voted no, along with Stratford Supervisor Allicia Rice.

The resolution passed by the board states the USMCA was created to “rebalance and modernize” NAFTA.

“Rebalancing the terms and conditions originally contained in NAFTA is in the best interest of residents and businesses of New York and the United States, in general,” the resolution says.

The resolution states that while NAFTA was a well-intended attempt in the 1990s to create a “free trade zone” for the U.S., Mexico and Canada, many provisions harmed U.S. Labor and wages to the benefit of mainly Mexico. The USMCA contains provisions addressing NAFTA inequities, including intellectual protection for American companies, tariff protections and increased market access for farmers, and better enforceable labor standards for workers in other countries.

On a state matter, the board passed a resolution opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed elimination of Medicaid “crossover” coverage payments for Part B co-insurance for dual-eligible low-income and elderly residents.

The board called upon Cuomo and the state Legislature to restore the funding to the final state budget in the “best interest of the citizens of New York state.”

“This proposed cut will have a drastic negative effect on health care for poor, elderly and infirm New Yorkers,” the resolution says. “This ill-advised proposal will also seriously harm access to ambulance services, particularly in rural and suburban areas of the state, by cutting reimbursement to an industry that is already struggling with low reimbursement rates. Any [state] budget savings will be overshadowed by the devastating effects that will result for health care and emergency medical services throughout the state.”

Young said elimination of Medicaid “crossover” coverage payments for Part B co-insurance was brought up on the committee level before the latest news of the pending shutdown of the Johnstown Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

“I’d hate to see if these are eliminated and these ambulance companies are forced to get even less,” Young said.

Board Chairman Jack Wilson called that scenario a “recipe for disaster.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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