Governor visits Forrester turf to push for Medicaid expansion

PLYMOUTH — Governor Maggie Hassan called on Republican members of the N.H. Senate to compromise on health care expansion when she and Democratic legislative leaders spoke at a press conference at the Whole Village Family Resources Center here on Monday morning. It was not coincidental that the location of the gathering was in the district of Republican Senator Jeanie Forrester of Meredith, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
The House and Senate will vote this Thursday on whether to expand Medicaid to about 49,000 poor adults but committees in both chambers differ on how to implement the expansion. A proposal by the Republican Senate shifts the adults out of a state managed care program to private insurance through the federal insurance marketplace in 2015.
But Hassan and fellow Democrats say that isn't feasible as there is only one insurance company that's interested in providing insurance in the federal health exchange. "The bill lacks workable, achievable and realistic timelines and includes no measures to ensure competition and cost-effectiveness on the exchange," said Hassan
She and Speaker of the House Terie Norelli have offered a compromise path which would adopt the Senate proposal to shift the entire newly eligible population of individuals and families with incomes at 0 to 133 percent of the federal poverty level for income onto the New Hampshire's health insurance exchange with premium assistance, but on a three year timeline.
''The proposal allows for workable, responsible and effective implementation, including increased competition to ensure cost-effectiveness on the exchange'' said Hassan, who maintains that the Senate bill will not work.
She said that both plans will require federal waivers and would end the expansion if federal financial support fell below promised levels. The Senate would give the government one year to approve its use of the marketplace or the expansion would end.
The Senate plan would end automatically at the end of three years when federal funding begins dropping below 100 percent unless the Legislature reauthorizes the program. The federal government is scheduled to pick up 90 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion after the first three years.
Hassan said that the stakes are high with $2.5 billion in federal funds hanging in the balance and said that failure to enact health care expansion by January 1 will cost the state $500,000 a day for every day that it is delayed.
She said that Republican Senate leadership has taken a ''my way or the highway'' approach over the deadline for implementation, which she said is unrealistic and can't be accomplished in a short time frame.
Hassan said that she was confident that there are members of the Senate (where the GOP holds a 13-11 edge) who still want to get health care expansion done and appealed to Forrester to work with her.
''I know how important preventing substance and alcohol abuse is to Senator Forrester. Just last month, New Futures of New Hampshire named Senator Forrester Legislator of the Year for her efforts to increase drug and alcohol prevention funding. I hope that Senator Forrester and her colleagues will put the hard-working people and families of our state first and negotiate constructively to finalize a New Hampshire plan that can be implemented successfully and responsibly.''
Also speaking at the press conference were Norelli, Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, and Michelle McEwen, president and CEO of Speare Memorial Hospital.


CAPTION: Hassan Medicaid in AA

Governor Maggie Hassan speaks at a press conference at the Whole Village Family Resources Center in Plymouth on Monday at which she urged Republican senators to compromise on a health care expansion plan whose fate will be decided by the legislature on Thursday. Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) is at the left and House Seaker Terie Norelli, is second from right. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)