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October 29. 2013 8:29PM

Medicaid expansion opponents in New Hampshire: Few will benefit for the cost

CONCORD — Opponents of expanding Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act will hold a news conference today saying expansion will have an adverse affect on thousands of Granite Staters.

Several lawmakers and representatives of groups opposed to expansion will speak at the news conference organized by Americans for Prosperity — NH.

House and Senate leaders are working with Gov. Maggie Hassan's office to reach an agreement on an expansion plan lawmakers could vote on when they meet in Special Session next month.

If an agreement can be reached, a bill will be introduced Nov. 7 and voted on Nov. 21 after public hearings Nov. 12.

The bill is likely to resemble the recommendations of the Commission to Study Medicaid Expansion, which proposed expanding Medicaid eligibility in order to maximize the available federal money, while using private insurance to cover as many newly eligible people as possible.

State officials estimate that about 49,000 low-income adults will be eligible for the Medicaid rolls under expansion and the state's health care providers would receive $2.4 billion over the next seven years.

But expansion opponents say the cost of expansion is not worth the few individuals it would cover.

"Medicaid expansion would cause over 20,000 New Hampshire residents to lose their high-quality private health insurance, and often their doctors, to get dumped into a low-quality Medicaid program that is already coming apart at the seams," said Greg Moore, state director of Americans for Prosperity — New Hampshire, adding "Medicaid Expansion is wrong for New Hampshire."

One member of the expansion committee, Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, will speak at the news conference along with Sen. Sam Cataldo, R-Farmington; Rep. George Lambert, R-Litchfield; Aaron Day, Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire Chair; Matt Murphy, Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire; Ashley Pratte, Cornerstone Action Executive Director, and Moore.

Additional recommendations by the Medicaid expansion commission include expanding Medicaid to low-income adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. But the commission wants to make expansion contingent on federal officials approving the use of private insurance.

The commission included safeguards to halt expansion if the federal government reneges on its financial commitment or expands program benefits. Lawmakers would need to act to allow the program to continue.

Hassan and the Democratically controlled House favor expansion, but supporters will need to win over some Senate Republicans to win passage. The Senate voted down party lines 13-11 to block expansion in June.

The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost for the newly eligible for three years beginning Jan. 1 and then reduce its share to 90 percent after seven years and thereafter.

Those eligible under the program would be individuals earning about $16,000 a year, and three-member families earning $23,000.

New Hampshire is one of a handful of states still deciding whether to expand Medicaid.

The news conference is at 1 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building.

grayno@unionleader.com


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