October 16, 2013

N.H. governor to seek special session on Medicaid expansion

The decision comes after a study panel recommends opting in to provide health coverage to 49,000 adults.

By Norma Love
Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — Gov. Maggie Hassan will ask Wednesday for lawmakers to be called into session next month to consider a recommendation that New Hampshire expand Medicaid to cover an estimated 49,000 adults over the next seven years.

A special panel voted unanimously Tuesday to present a report to the Legislature calling for expansion. A minority of the panel also recommends in the report that the state consider more private insurance options and do more to protect taxpayers. The panel majority recommends moving ahead with a more limited use of private insurance by requiring some to remain on their employer’s insurance when it’s cheaper.

Hassan, a Democrat, and the Democratic-led House favor expanding Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled. For expansion to be authorized, Democrats need Republican support in the Senate, where GOP leaders would like any expansion to involve more private insurance options before proceeding.

Hassan praised the panel for laying out a way for New Hampshire to proceed.

“I look forward to working with members of the House and Senate to develop legislation from this road map,” she said in a prepared statement.

Senate President Chuck Morse said it was important to recognize the report as “just the first step.”

“To be clear, significant work remains to take the recommendations of the commission and turn them into a bill that can pass both bodies of the Legislature,” said Morse, a Republican from Salem.

Hassan said the special session will be Nov. 7-21 under an agreement with Morse and House Speaker Terie Norelli, a Democrat from Portsmouth. Morse said public hearings would be held Nov. 12-14, with a vote the following week.

With expansion, adults under age 65 who earn up to 138 percent of federal poverty guidelines would be eligible for Medicaid. That would apply to a single adult earning about $15,000 a year and a family of four earning $32,500 annually. New Hampshire’s current Medicaid program covers low-income children, parents with non-disabled children under 18, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities.

If New Hampshire expands Medicaid, the federal government would pick up the full cost of expansion for the first three years and 90 percent over the long haul. The panel recommends requiring reauthorization of the expansion if the federal government reduces its support.

New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that has not decided to support or reject expansion. States that have acted are about evenly divided on the issue. Maine has declined to participate in expansion.

The expansion plan endorsed by the New Hampshire panel’s majority would require a federal waiver that is expected to be approved quickly.

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