State Senator Mike Nozzolio is calling on Congress to block President Obama’s immigration order, which he says could cost the state $2 billion a year, a much higher figure than what most experts predict.

“Establishing this change in immigration policy ordered by President Obama could result in a massive unfunded federal mandate on New York taxpayers of unprecedented proportions,” Nozzolio said in a press release Friday.

The concern is that undocumented immigrants who take advantage of the president’s program would be considered persons residing under the color of law, or PRUCOL, in New York State. Because of a 2001 state Court of Appeals ruling, PRUCOLs are entitled to Medicaid.

Normally, the federal government pays half the state’s Medicaid expenses, but New York pays 100 percent of the Medicaid costs for PRUCOLs because they are not entitled to federal benefits.

Nozzolio, a Republican representing the Finger Lakes, said Obama’s move “could cost New York State taxpayers over $2 billion annually.”

It was not immediately clear where that number came from.

Republican leader Dean Skelos has said the immigration order, which could make hundreds of thousands of immigrants eligible for the state’s Medicaid program, could cost taxpayers between $1.2 billion and $2 billion.

Capital has previously reported that number is considered high, given that many of the immigrants eligible for Obama’s immigration order would not qualify for Medicaid. Some earn too much, some already have insurance from an employer and some will likely not enroll.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimated only half of undocumented immigrants lack health insurance, while the senators appear to assume all immigrants would enroll in Medicaid.

The senators’ figures also do not appear to take into account the state’s Emergency Medicaid program, which already spends millions each year covering emergency medical procedures for undocumented immigrants.

E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for Public Policy, estimated Obama’s order would cost the state between $250 million and $500 million each year—still a large number but far more manageable than Nozzolio’s figure.

© 2014 Capital New York

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