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February 18. 2014 5:20PM

Sen. Chuck Morse: On Medicaid, a New Hampshire option that works

More than any other issue, my Senate colleges and I hear from our neighbors, constituents and business leaders most often about the rising cost of health care and its impact on purchasing power, job growth and our economy.

New Hampshire citizens pay the second-highest health insurance premium rates in the nation, due primarily to a lack of competition in our insurance market and the cost of caring for 200,000 uninsured or Medicaid-dependent residents. Combined, the value of these hidden taxes approaches nearly $1 billion a year, which places a heavy burden on every taxpayer and insurance policy holder in the state. And yet despite the price tag, the quality of care available to the underinsured remains far from adequate.

Obamacare has failed to address the rising cost of care in New Hampshire or to improve the quality of services available to our residents. Thousands have lost their health care benefits and are now paying more for plans that offer less. The law has created legions of new taxes, discouraged people from working, and further complicated a dysfunctional system.

Unfortunately, despite proving expensive, unmanageable and unpopular, Obamacare’s failures have not spurred policymakers in Washington to repeal or replace it. Here in New Hampshire, we would be making a tremendous mistake if we allowed Obamacare or the expansion of Medicaid to move forward, and this is why I have and will continue to oppose the misguided implementation of this federal law.

Instead, to bring down the cost of care and improve patient outcomes, the Senate will move forward with a New Hampshire solution. Our proposal will establish a two-year pilot program, 100-percent funded with existing federal dollars, to give low-income New Hampshire residents the opportunity to purchase high-quality private insurance coverage. Contrary to the one-size fits all Obamacare model, we are seeking an unprecedented level of flexibility to manage an alternative health care program that works for New Hampshire.

Our program includes important cost-saving and personal responsibility reforms, such as copayments and deductibles, preventative care and wellness measures, and referrals for job counseling for participants without steady employment. These reforms will encourage beneficiaries to take responsibility for their own health and give them the tools to build a better life for themselves and their families.

Opponents of this plan have muddied the water on this difficult issue, and that’s unfortunate given the challenges we face. I’d like to address a few of those unfounded criticisms.

First, to be very clear, our proposal will not increase state spending, nor will it increase the number of residents on Medicaid. Republicans would not have agreed to anything else.

Second, our bill is very specific that without the approval of the necessary waivers the program will not proceed. Nowhere is it suggested that waiver refusal would result in defaulting to Medicaid expansion.

And finally, to protect our taxpayers, the bill ends the program automatically if at any time federal funding drops below 100 percent. I agree that enforcing this sunset will require political courage. However, Republican senators have repeatedly shown that we will stand with New Hampshire against the effects of Obamacare. If we had not done so over the course of the last year, the President’s costly entitlement expansion plan would already be law, and we would have lost this opportunity to forge our own path.

Obamacare is moving the nation towards a single-payer health care system, and Medicaid expansion is forcing millions of patients into a system of subpar care and increasing dependence on government.

Our proposal takes New Hampshire in a starkly different direction by encouraging competition in our private health care market by creating new customers, increasing reimbursement rates and bringing new providers into the market. Assisting in the purchase of high-quality private coverage will improve the quality of life of thousands of low-income residents while simultaneously improving their ability to earn a living and contribute to our economy.

What we are offering is a private-option solution to address New Hampshire specific needs. By moving this bill forward, we will be taking a vitally important step to enhance the lives of our citizens and strengthen our economy.

Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, is president of the New Hampshire Senate.


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