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Pair of appointees named to Medicaid committee

CONCORD — The commission created to help New Hampshire decide whether or not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare is beginning to take shape.

Gov. Maggie Hassan and House Republican Leader Gene Chandler announced their appointees on Tuesday. Chandler named state Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, while Hassan appointed Jim Varnum, former president of Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital.

Kurk, former chair of the House Finance Committee, is currently the ranking Republican on House Finance and sits on Division III of the committee, which oversees appropriations to the Department of Health and Human Services, including Medicaid.

Varnum served as president of Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital from 1978 until his retirement in 2006. He also founded and served as president of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Alliance from 1983 to 2006. He is currently the president of the board of trustees of the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council, Lebanon, as well as a director of the Crotched Mountain Foundation. Varnum has also served on the board of directors of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, including two years as its chair.

The commission will be comprised of three senators, three representatives and three members of the public, plus the commissioners of the Insurance Department and Health and Human Services as non-voting members.

Its assignment is to study the potential costs and benefits of expanding Medicaid to cover an additional 58,000 low-income residents of the state, with the federal government covering most of the $2.5 billion price tag over the next seven years.

Gov. Hassan and House Democrats included Medicaid expansion in their version of the state budget, but reached a compromise with Senate Republicans to appoint the commission, which will begin work next month and issue a final report by Oct. 15.


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