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August 05. 2013 7:41PM

NH Health Plan grant for ACA criticized by Americans for Prosperity

A conservative activist group on Monday criticized a move by state insurance officials that side-stepped the rejection of a $5.4 million federal grant designed to help implement the Affordable Care Act health care exchange in New Hampshire.

On Friday, Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny said the New Hampshire Health Plan, which he described as a quasi-government body that operates the state’s high risk pool, could apply for the grant.

The grant is designed to establish consumer assistance programs for insurance buyers.

Greg Moore, New Hampshire director of Americans for Prosperity, called the latest move illegal and said state law requires that the Health Care Reform Oversight Committee set all policies dealing with the Obama health care law.

“This is a moment of truth for Governor (Maggie) Hassan and Attorney General (Joseph) Foster,” Moore said in a statement. “As partisan Democrats, they have to decide whether to enforce the rule of law or whether they are so blinded by ideology to ignore the violation of the law by a state agency.”

Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg blamed Republican legislators for blocking the ability of the Insurance Department to obtain the federal grant earlier this year.

“Governor Hassan supports the Health Plan’s application in order to ensure that state-level experts who best understand New Hampshire’s insurance market and the needs of our people are the ones providing assistance and information to families, individuals and small businesses looking to access critical health coverage — not the federal government,” Goldberg said.

Two organizations — Granite State Progress and New Hampshire Voices for Health — said they support the involvement of the New Hampshire Health Plan.

Obamacare goes into effect Jan. 1, and officials say thousands of people who have never purchased health insurance will have to do so for the first time. The grant was expected to fund education and outreach programs, but the Legislature refused to write it into the state budget.

In June, Sevigny said he consulted with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and realized the New Hampshire Health Plan could accept the grant.

“It (New Hampshire Health Plan) is set up by the state, (but) it’s got an independent board. It’s not a government agency,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who is a member of the Health Care Reform Advisory Committee, said Friday the plan runs afoul of a law.

“The (insurance department’s) consumer assistance program was not approved by the oversight committee,” Bradley said. “This is clearly an end run around.”

grayno@unionleader.com; mhayward@unionleader.com


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