NH Senate Votes To End Medicaid Expansion And Leave 40,000 Stranded Without Insurance

By the NH Labor News - May 21, 2015

The New Hampshire Senate voted straight down party lines against continuing the state’s partisan Medicaid expansion.

New Hampshire Senate Republicans including Jeb Bradley have praised the state’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion program, saying “the indications are that it’s working exactly as we intended. It’s reducing emergency room visits, and reducing what I call the ‘hidden tax’ of uncompensated care.”

Yet despite touting the program’s benefits for New Hampshire’s people, businesses and economy, the Senate Finance Committee voted yesterday along party lines against continuing the bipartisan plan.

“ Republican Senators on the Finance Committee touted the success of our bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan,” said Senator Woodburn. “This isn’t a partisan issue. New Hampshire’s business community, including the Business and Industry Association, has called on us to continue the state’s successful expansion program because it’s reducing heath care cost-shifting onto our families and businesses, strengthening the health of our workforce, and boosting our economy.”

Experts have pointed out that the uncertainty caused by the legislature’s inaction will affect insurance companies’ decisions and could lead to increased rates for all Granite Staters in the private market. The New Hampshire Hospital Association today released a new report showing a 22% drop in emergency room visits by uninsured patients during the first nine months of expansion and reinforcing once again that the state’s bipartisan expansion plan is working.

“Senate Republicans including Jeb Bradley have made clear that the state’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan is working and should be continued,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “There’s simply no excuse for why members of both parties can’t come together now to maintain our commitment to New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy by continuing the state’s successful expansion plan.”

The legislature’s failure to act now to protect Medicaid expansion could lead to increased rates for all Granite Staters on the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Jennifer Patterson of the state’s Insurance Department recently told the AP, “The decisions that (insurance companies) make and any uncertainties that result from what’s going on in the legislative process, all of that gets played out in the rate development, and that is reflected across the entire private market.”

Lisa Guertin, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, told the AP, “It has huge implications on the prices people pay.”

“Today’s vote against continuing the successful Medicaid expansion we enacted just last summer is short-sighted, partisan, and disappointing,” said Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. “This expanded coverage was the result of widespread support in the business and healthcare communities, a bipartisan law, and several 3-2 votes on the Executive Council.  By all accounts it has been tremendously successful, with a big drop in uninsured patient visits in New Hampshire’s Emergency Rooms.”

Van Ostern continued, “This past Sunday, I spoke with a woman whose sister now has coverage through the NH Medicaid expansion we enacted. Her voice broke when she said thank you, and she said policy makers in Concord need to know that their votes affect real people’s lives. She deserves better than today’s vote.”

“Playing chicken with the healthcare coverage of 40,000 New Hampshire citizens — and the families and employers who rely on them — is bad public policy. Our people and our economy can’t afford this uncertainty,” added Van Ostern.

“Not only do Senate Republicans lack any plan to protect coverage for the tens of thousands of Granite Staters who have gotten covered thanks to the state’s successful expansion plan, but their failure to act now could lead to increased rates for all Granite Staters in the private market,” added Buckley.

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