State House Memo: Medicaid expansion must be Legislature’s top priority for 2014
When the Legislature gets back to work next week, our first priority must be to pass Medicaid expansion. Offering health insurance to New Hampshire’s poorest adults is the single most important step we can take to improve the health and security of our population, while making an unparalleled investment in jobs and the economy.
Fifty-eight thousand New Hampshire residents between the ages of 19 and 64 earning less than $16,000 a year are currently unable to afford health insurance. These are our state’s working poor: hairdressers, bus drivers, waiters and construction workers. We depend on them for the quality of life we enjoy here in the Granite State. However, these important members of our communities often put off routine care because they are unable to afford medical treatment and are more likely to end up in emergency departments, where care is more expensive and lacks coordination and follow-up. A catastrophic illness or accident can result in crippling debt and bankruptcy for too many New Hampshire families. In addition to the personal tragedies suffered by our friends and neighbors, the economic consequences weaken our communities and the state’s economy.
Fortunately, comprehensive, affordable health insurance is now an option. Offered through our nearly 50-year-old Medicaid program we can help these 58,000 New Hampshire residents get treatment for their heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression. Treating their chronic conditions can help them get back on their feet, work more hours, find full time work, and eventually earn enough money to get off Medicaid.
As efficient as Medicaid is, especially now that it is delivered through managed care contracts with private insurance carriers, the expansion to low income adults is an even better deal. For the first three years, the federal government pays 100 percent of the claims, eventually settling at 90 percent. This is tax money we already send to Washington, only now it will be returned to New Hampshire.
Medicaid expansion will represent an investment in New Hampshire’s economy of more than half a million dollars a day, every day. This investment will lead to the creation of over 5,000 new jobs in our state; something we all agree is a priority.
Finally, Medicaid expansion will decrease uncompensated care in our hospitals, health centers and mental health centers by at least $80 million a year. This financial burden on our health care system is created when people get seriously ill or injured and cannot pay for the treatment. It is a burden that is currently passed on to families and businesses, making health insurance more expensive for us all.
With Medicaid expansion, we will improve the wellbeing and security of the people of New Hampshire, decreasing the burden of uncompensated care on our hospitals and health care providers. We will gain 5,000 new jobs through unprecedented investment in our economy.
It’s no wonder the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association supports Medicaid expansion. They know a healthy population is ready and able to work hard in a vibrant economy.
When the Legislature reconvenes, we need to roll up our sleeves and make Medicaid expansion happen immediately. Our friends and neighbors, health care providers and businesses are waiting for us to act.
(Democratic Rep. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua chairs the health and human services division of the House Finance Committee.)