House Democrats call for quick action on new Medicaid expansion bill
The issue of Medicaid expansion will return to the House floor when New Hampshire lawmakers begin their 2014 session tomorrow.
House Democrats yesterday announced a plan slightly different from a bill they passed in November that was killed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
But the issue is not likely to be resolved quickly. Negotiations over Medicaid expansion have not reached a resolution in the past year, as Republicans and Democrats struggle to find a plan acceptable to both parties. Democratic House leaders acknowledged yesterday that the Republican-controlled Senate will not likely support their latest bill. And senators are holding separate negotiations but have not announced a deal.
House Democrats plan to attach Medicaid expansion to a bill they will consider tomorrow.
“It’s not something we should wait before implementing,” said House Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, a Penacook Democrat. “It’s important for the people of New Hampshire that something be done soon.”
Republicans criticized Democrats’ tactics yesterday. House Minority Leader Gene Chandler issued a statement calling the proposal rushed and unnecessary.
“House Democrats have again chosen to ram this significant policy change through with little or no debate,” said Chandler, a Bartlett Republican. “This is one of, if not the largest, expansion of a government entitlement program the New Hampshire Legislature has ever faced.”
House Democrats have also filed a separate bill for the upcoming session to expand Medicaid if tomorrow’s action fails. Chandler said waiting to consider that legislation would be more appropriate and allow time for debate.
Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat who wrote the bill going before the House tomorrow, said it would allow the state’s poorest residents to receive coverage in the existing managed Medicaid program instead of requiring them to use federal assistance to purchase private insurance.
Rosenwald said that provision would expand coverage to about 37,000 individuals who fall below 100 percent of the federal poverty level but do not already receive Medicaid coverage. Other newly eligible residents, with earnings up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, would be offered coverage through the state until 2017, after which they would use federal funds to purchase insurance through on the federal health care exchange.
The Senate bill tabled in November would not have allowed newly eligible individuals to use existing Medicaid coverage. They would instead receive federal funds to purchase insurance on the federal marketplace after the federal government approved necessary waivers.
House Speaker Terie Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, said yesterday that House action tomorrow would allow the state to begin using funds authorized under the Affordable Care Act, and coverage to more than 50,000 residents who do not currently have insurance.
“This would enable the state to come to a swift resolution and promptly begin realizing more than $500,000 per day in federal funds,” Norelli said in a statement.
House and Senate leaders are not participating in the same negotiations. But Gov. Maggie Hassan is closely watching both chambers. Medicaid expansion is still a priority for the Democratic governor, spokesman Marc Goldberg said in a statement yesterday that praised House Democrats for taking action.
“The governor continues to have conversations with both House and Senate leadership about Medicaid expansion and will work with any member of either party who is willing to negotiate in good faith toward a compromise that will work from day one and for the long term,” Goldberg said.