Recently I filed a late bill to stop an attempt by Governor Hassan to raid funds appropriated for nursing homes. I, along with many of my constituents and colleagues, are adamantly opposed to this theft of Medicaid dollars.
As you may have heard, the N.H. Department of Health & Human Services faces a deficit of $58 million and there is an appropriate effort to fix this over-spending problem. However, I believe the governor made a grave error in attempting to correct this deficit on the backs of our private and county nursing homes.
During a meeting of the Fiscal Committee, the commissioner of Health & Human Services (HHS) set forth a plan to balance the end of Fiscal Year 2015 that included taking $7 million from the nursing homes. The commissioner confirmed that the governor knew and approved of this cut. This plan leaves no doubt as to where Medicaid nursing home residents fit in the governor's list of priorities.
In District 2, that means nearly a $700,000 reduction in funding in one private and three county nursing homes. For the Grafton County Nursing Home alone, the cut will mean nearly $277,000 in funds. In Coos County (Coos Berlin, Coos West Stewartstown, St. Vincent De Paul, and Morrison) the cut amounts to $272,000.
When we passed the state budget in 2013, we made some difficult choices. We budgeted funds that we thought reasonably could be designated for Medicaid payments to nursing homes. We also included a budget footnote that required all funds assigned for nursing homes actually be spent on nursing homes.
Now the governor is saying that she has the authority to change the law and spend those funds dedicated to Medicaid nursing home residents. She is trying to do exactly what the footnote says she cannot. When we asked during the Fiscal Committee meeting by what authority did the governor believe she could ignore budget law, we were advised that the Attorney General believes she has the authority. We requested that opinion in writing and, to date, regardless of repeated requests, have not been provided with the opinion.
The most fundamental principle of our government is that the legislature's job is to make the laws and the governor's job is to faithfully execute the laws. With a legislature made up of 424 members, New Hampshire has the most highly representative state government in the country. It would be a bitter irony if New Hampshire, of all places, were to allow one person the power to decide what legislative decisions will be executed and what legislative decisions will be ignored.
I am also disturbed by the manner in which this plan was revealed to the Legislature. Although the letter detailing the commissioner's plan was dated January 15, it was not hand-delivered to the legislative Fiscal Committee until the night of January 20, just three days before the committee met. Another irony, when you consider that in the same week, the governor applauded the final report of her own Commission on "Innovation, Efficiency, and Transparency in State Government."
The impact of this raid on the nursing homes could mean a reduction in jobs and/or a downshift to the taxpayers as these homes try to make up for the loss of funds—and the nursing home folks are speaking out.
To express their outrage, the Sisters of the Holly Cross Nursing Home and residents from other nursing homes (some wheelchair bound) made a trip to Concord to talk with the press and the governor. While the press did spend time hearing from nursing home staff, residents, family members, and administrators, the governor would not. Just another indication of where our frailest senior citizens fit in the governor's priorities.
Among some of the letters I received, one nursing home staff member wrote, "I do this, along with my coworkers because our seniors are essential. Because I, along with every other long term care health care worker recognize the value and worth of those that we have been entrusted to care for, apparently more so than Governor Hassan. She should be ashamed of herself. I'm baffled that our governor feels that she is above the law and that she can steal $7 million from our seniors."
The Legislature has been calling on the governor to get DHHS spending under control for nearly a year. Instead of doing that, the governor now wants to unilaterally override the decisions made by the Legislature and pass the problem down to nursing home residents and employees. They are not the ones who caused the budget problems at DHHS, and they should not be the ones forced to suffer the consequences of the governor's failure to control spending.
I encourage you to call your county commissioners, legislators, and the governor, and ask them to support my bill that will assure funding to the nursing homes is maintained.
(Meredith Republican Jeanie Forrester represents District 2 in the N.H. Senate.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 19 February 2015 11:37
Today, we stand at a critical juncture. Our country's economy continues to strengthen — and in many respects, New Hampshire remains ahead of the curve.
In December, our unemployment rate dropped to 4 percent, the seventh lowest in the country and the lowest in New England, and our private sector has recovered all of the jobs lost in the recession.
We lead the nation in many measures, and our economic potential is strong, but respected economists and public policy experts say there are warning signs ahead: Our population is aging, and in-migration is slowing.
Our ability to address these trends as quickly as we might like is impeded by a number of challenges — the recession, tax law changes and resulting loss in revenue, and lawsuits that needed to be addressed in order for us to move forward.
But we must build on the bipartisan progress of the last two years with responsible, strategic investments in order to keep our economy moving in the right direction.
To achieve that goal, I have presented a fiscally responsible, balanced budget to the Legislature for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 — with no income or sales tax.
It is a budget that helps expand opportunity for middle-class families, supports job-creating businesses, encourages innovation and aims to attract and retain more young people here in New Hampshire.
It keeps total spending increases to 6.4 percent, well below the historical average, and it is balanced honestly and responsibly, assuming conservative revenue growth and transitioning away from budgeting gimmicks that mislead the public about what we can truly afford to do.
To help develop an even stronger workforce and hold down the cost of higher education, this budget increases funds for our university and community college systems, with our community colleges indicating that they will be able to once again lower tuition.
The budget also increases state aid to local schools, advances efforts to modernize STEM education, invests in business incubators, increases travel and tourism promotion, and will help us develop a workforce recruitment strategy.
We also know that our businesses need a healthy workforce in order to grow and thrive. Last year, we came together across party lines to pass a historic health care expansion plan that is helping to reduce health care cost-shifting onto families and businesses, strengthen the health of our workforce and boost our economy.
Because of our expansion plan, more than 34,000 hard-working Granite Staters now have the health and economic security that comes with quality, affordable health coverage, and this budget provides for the reauthorization of our bipartisan expansion plan.
The budget also maintains our state's commitment to revitalizing mental health services and strengthens treatment and prevention efforts to address the state's serious heroin and opioid challenges.
And to help set the stage for a new generation of economic growth, the capital budget includes funding for the environmental and engineering work required to move forward with bringing commuter rail from Boston to Nashua and Manchester – a critical project that will support our businesses and help keep young people in our state.
To invest in these priorities, this budget focuses on making state government more innovative and efficient, merging state agencies and creating the position of a chief operating officer to work across state agencies to drive process and efficiency improvements.
And this proposal makes modest adjustments to ensure sufficient revenue to make strategic investments, including increasing the cigarette tax, closing tax loopholes, and allowing Keno and self-service lottery terminals.
It also increases the vehicle registration fee to address our Highway Fund challenges, which, if we take no further action, will leave us with the untenable choice of leaving our roads unplowed, cutting state police, or eliminating aid to fix local roads and bridges.
The revenue changes included in this proposal will not diminish New Hampshire's standing as having one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, and my commitment to veto a sales or income tax remains firm.
The young people and innovative businesses we hope to attract and keep here in New Hampshire appreciate our low-tax environment, which we must maintain. They are also looking for good schools, affordable higher education, modern transportation options, workforce opportunities, and safe, healthy communities, and they will not sacrifice these priorities, which will drive our economic growth for decades to come.
As we work to finalize this budget together, it will as always require difficult choices and shared sacrifices. And it will require building on the ideas and perspectives of Democrats, Republicans and independents to reach new solutions.
I stand ready to work with any member of either party who is willing to bring constructive, long-term ideas to the table so we can continue investing in critical priorities. Together, we can expand middle-class opportunity, support job-creating businesses, encourage innovation and keep our economy moving forward. Together, New Hampshire will thrive.
(Democrat Maggie Hassan of Exeter is serving her second term as governor of New Hampshire.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 09:19
There were just five waterfront transactions on Winnipesaukee in January at an average sales price of $1.084 million and median price point of $899,000. The highest sale of the new year so far was at 76 Veasey Shore in Meredith. This custom, shingle clad New England "cottage" was built in 2006 and has 4,202 square feet of amazing, high quality living space. There are four ensuites including the first floor master with its own fireplace, four and a half baths, a wonderful chef's kitchen with high end appliances, an elegant living room with coffered ceilings and wainscoting, and a second floor upstairs family room. The oversize windows bring in the amazing views of the lake and make the house sunny and bright. Outside there is a wonderful porch and patio from which to survey the lake, the 237 feet of frontage, and the lush landscaping that make this 5 acre estate so special and private. At the water's edge there's a large U-Shaped dock and on the way down the drive there's a detached three car garage with guest quarters above. Plenty of space for all the toys and guests. This home was first offered back in 2009 for $2,999,999 and was relisted this year by Nicole Watkins of Berkshire BHHS Verani Realty in Moultonborough for $2.149 million and sold in 113 days for $2.119 million. The property is currently assessed at $1.785 million.
Next down on the dollar scale is the home at 72 Varney Point Road Left in Gilford. This 2446 square foot, three bedroom, three bath contemporary home was built in 1998. It features beautiful cherry floors and lots of built-ins, a remodeled kitchen with granite countertop and stainless appliances, a great living room with beamed ceilings and fireplace with gas insert, library, and a second floor office. Of course there are great long range views from this location. The home sits on a third acre lot with 100' of frontage and a U-shaped dock accommodating three boats. This property was listed at $1.479 million and sold for $1.25 million after 152 days on the market. It is currently assessed for $1,231,900. This property was listed by Melanie Roy Tripp of Coldwell Banker RB in Laconia.
The median price sale was represented by 33 Lovejoy Lane in Meredith. This home has 4,646 square feet of living space, three bedrooms (plus plenty of additional sleeping spaces), three and a half baths and was built in 1987. There's a large living room with a gas fireplace, a family room with bar area and pool table, a first floor master with cathedral ceilings and a fireplace, a tasteful eat in kitchen plus a separate summer kitchen. Outside there are expansive views from the large deck, 147' of waterfront, a perched beach, thirty foot dock, and swim raft. This home was first offered back in 2011 at $1.49 million. It was re-listed in 2013 for $1.078 million, reduced to $899,000, and sold for $899,000. The current tax assessed value is $1.019 million. This property was listed by Henry Buletti of Meredith Neck Realty.
There were no waterfront sales on Winnisquam in January.
Pease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. This report was prepared using the NNEREN MLS system as of 2/10/15. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 February 2015 08:26
"Snake-oil" peddlers of dubious credibility have been with us for a long time. Guaranteeing to cure anything from "colds to cancer," they once sold preparations containing opium or morphine dissolved in alcohol. State and federal legislation has since cleaned up the business so it is not quit as dangerous but quackery continued today. Hour-long infomercials try to sell us magnetic bracelets, unneeded, high-priced "miracle" diet supplements, and whatnot. A lot of this is no different than miracle "elixers" sold at 19th Century "medicine shows." But, some modern medical quackery is dangerous, especially the anti-vaccination movement.
The current "anti-vaxxer" movement is gaining momentum and is threatening pubic heath. What is ironic is this movement has a large number of followers among educated, middle-class Americans who certainly mean well. Even so, their conspiratorial, unscientific beliefs and trusting quacks, they are endangering not only their own kids but also others. The anti-vaccination movement relies on fear, misinformation and discredited research, such as one article in the Lancet linking vaccines to autism whose author admitted falsification
They also make a number of logical fallacies: Some point out how "Big Pharma" is evil. No doubt, these companies make obscene profits and there is also no doubt that they are a major reason for over-prescribing. But even if this is true, it does not follow that they do not make things that work and that are often needed. Other point out how Big Pharma is "in bed" with the FDA and CDC. This is probably also true but this does not mean that there are not good medicines that get approved. Others point out that sometimes vaccinated people still get sick. This is also true but when they do contract a disease, it is often milder.
Unfortunately, some have recently sought to make this a political issue. Those who vaccinate and those who don't come from all political persuasions and many opponents of vaccines are actually liberals. But, as soon as President Obama publicly supported vaccination, immediately, right-wing politicians like DOCTOR Rand Paul came out against vaccination. Other conservatives blame President Obama for the recent measles outbreak. According to these people, the measles arrived with refugee children from Central America allowed to stay for humanitarian reasons.
A subset of this movement encourages people to go to chiropractors to improve their immune systems even though there is absolutely no peer reviewed medical research that backs this up. There is certainly nothing wrong with chiropractic. As long as chiropractors stick to what they are good at — the muscular/skeletal system — they can be wonderful healers. When, however, they claim they can prevent disease better than vaccines, they cross the line and if their own association will not control them, who will?
Some doctors are refusing to keep children as patients if their parents will not vaccinate. One even reports such parents to his state's Child Protective Services. There are some kids who cannot take vaccines because of medical issues and these doctors do not want to endanger these kids. Other doctors have to be careful with anti-vaxxers because they want to give the child SOME care.
Some opponents of vaccination see it as a matter of "parental rights." But, like any right, parental rights have reasonable limits especially if the parents' decisions endanger the child or others. For example, if your religion teaches that you should not seek certain types of medical treatment, you can, as an adult, make that decision for yourself but not for a minor child. Parents have been prosecuted for denying children medical care. Perhaps "opting out" for your kids (unless there is a valid medical reason) goes too far.
Many of us "Boomers" are grateful our parents got us shots so we did not get the diseases that killed or disabled their generation and our grandparents' generation. Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. Polio, measles, whooping cough, and other childhood diseases, once common, were nearly eliminated in this country before the current anti-vaccination movement. We are living longer and better because of vaccines and antibiotics.
(Scott Cracraft is a resident of Gilford. He is not a physician or microbiologist but has a opinion on most things.)
Last Updated on Monday, 09 February 2015 09:34
As of February 1, 2015 there were 781 single family residential homes on the market in the twelve Lakes Region communities covered in this report. The median asking price was $249,900 which means that some 390 homes were priced below that number making for a lot of affordable available homes. This inventory level represents about a nine month supply of inventory on the market.
OK! It has been cold enough and snowy enough. I like the cold weather, but not this cold and not this much snow. When you are selling homes in the winter it can be tough. Sometimes we deal with homes that aren't shoveled or plowed out. Sometimes houses have been winterized and have no heat on so it feels like it is twenty degrees colder inside than out. At least those showings are quick. Septic inspections are always fun this time of year, too! There's nothing like having to use a jack hammer to get through frozen ground to make sure the septic system is working.
Trying to keep a house cozy and warm when it has been this cold can be expensive even with the reduced oil prices. We New Englanders tend to be frugal (or some say cheap) and try to save money by heating with wood or pellet stoves. There are some other simple steps that you can take to help reduce your heating cost. Here are a few I found on the internet. Some you have heard of before and some you may have not.
From an article published by the BBC News, I found that you can stay warmer by using tin foil. No, you don't wrap yourself in tin foil, but you put it behind your hot water or steam radiators so that heat is reflected out into the room rather than out through the wall. Seems like a good idea, unless you don't have radiators. In those circumstances try wrapping yourself (shiny side in.)
Also, don't block radiators or heating vents with furniture. You want to heat the room not the velvet sofa. You can also put a shelf on the wall above the radiator so heat is directed out into the room rather that straight up to the ceiling. This is really effective when there is a radiator below a window. Instead of the warm air getting trapped between the curtain and window it is directed inward.
Speaking of curtains, the article also said to hang heavy curtains on your windows. The heavier, the better. Now that's really not a secret or something new. This harkens back to the days when animal hides were used on doors and windows. Some folks around here might have some deer hides from this past hunting season that might work well though using them may also get you divorced. But curtains really will cut down on drafts and losing heat out your windows. Window curtains with thermal linings are the best. It also helps to use that clear plastic film that you buy at the hardware store that you install using double sided tape and shrink to a tight fit with a hair dryer. One article said that you could use clear plastic shower curtains over windows to cut down on draft and let the light in. I would not recommend this choice if you are selling your home. That's way too much to try to explain to any prospective buyer.
I also learned a new term this week that I hadn't heard of before. Did you ever hear of a "Draught Excluder?" Sounds like a bouncer in an English pub. Well, I know you've seen them before. You probably tripped over them. Some also call them "Sausage Dogs." You know, they are the long cloth tubes filled with stuffing that you put at the bottom of a door to keep the draft out. Often, these are decorated with a head and tail to look like a dachshund. They do help.
Other recommendations to stay warm include common sense things such as closing off rooms you don't use, using ceiling fans to push the warm air down, dressing warmly, adding an extra layer of insulation in the attic, putting rugs on bare floors, and even burning candles, although I am not sure how much candlepower it takes to make a huge difference. My favorite tip, however, harkens back to the 60's rock group, Three Dog Night, whose name ostensibly is of Australian origin and refers to how many dogs you need to curl up with on the coldest night in order to stay warm. That would be three. Yup, wanna stay warm on a cold night? Cuddle with your pups. Works for me...
Pease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. This report was prepared using the NNEREN MLS system as of 2/1/15. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012
Last Updated on Friday, 06 February 2015 07:52