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Republican Senators support N.H. Medicaid expansion plan

A plan to expand New Hampshire’s Medicaid program overcame its first official hurdle yesterday when the Senate Health, Human Services and Education Committee endorsed it by a vote of 4-1.

The lone dissenting vote came from Bedford Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Republican, who opposed both the proposal and the other committee members’ decision to close the executive session quickly after opening it.

“I’m not trying to shut off your concerns,” said Sen. Nancy Stiles of Hampton, the committee’s chairwoman. “We all know your positions.”

The bill, proposed by Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem, would use federal money to buy insurance for low-income adults. As many as 12,000 people could get help paying their portion of an employer-sponsored health plan starting in July, while the rest would get coverage in January.

The entire program would end, barring explicit continued authorization from the Legislature, on Dec. 31, 2016, when federal funding is scheduled to drop from 100 percent.

Legislators’ ideological stands on the bill are mostly known because the proposal is almost identical to one Morse and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro proposed at the end of a special session on Medicaid expansion last fall.

Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Democratic-controlled House have also indicated support for the proposal.

With Stiles, Morse, Bradley and the Senate’s 11 Democrats supporting it, the proposal is well-positioned to pass when it goes to a vote next month.

Sen. John Reagan, a Deerfield Republican, also voted in favor of the bill yesterday and said he will continue to support it before the full Senate.

He supports it, he said, because “it’s not Medicaid expansion, it’s a premium payment plan for private insurance for people who now enjoy uncompensated care or have been shut out the market.

“It’s what we think is the best thing for New Hampshire right now.”

Reagan had previously opposed any implementation of federal health care reform and was endorsed by the conservative activist group the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire.

The group has pledged to recruit candidates to run against any senators who supported Medicaid expansion.

Reagan, whose district includes Allenstown, Chichester, Deerfield, Epsom, Pembroke, Pittsfield, Northwood and Loudon, said he’s not worried about the potential for primary opponents this fall.

“I feel that I’ve done the right thing, and if they think they’re going to get a more liberty-minded person than me up there, then good luck to them,” he said.

“They properly represent their constituency in that they oppose the federal takeover of health care, but when you ask them, ‘What else would you do?’ they tend to get away from what is realistic.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

Legacy Comments2

There has been talk of a need to make sure the sick have access to needed medical treatment and talk of a need to reduce uncompensated medical treatment. However, this bill will NOT make good on these objectives. This bill would use our federal tax dollars to purchase private health insurance that would enhance the compensation to major hospitals and doctors, period. The use of government to enhance revenues and profits of major business on the backs of the taxpaying middle class is wrong. It is crony capitalism. Those slated to receive this tax-payer funded insurance coverage are young, healthy, working individuals. They are not the most critically ill and not those driving the costs of uncompensated care. Sponsors of the bill said in testimony that we are to expect no reduction in our private health insurance premiums and no reduction in uncompensated care costs from passage of this bill. Say what? Aren’t those some of the very promises that have been made in selling this bill? Using government to funnel huge amounts of money to big businesses is wrong. I would have hoped that Democrat senators would have stepped forward to protect against these types of abuses for the benefit of big business.

I think I see what you're saying, and I am similarly dismayed by the way health insurance (and therefore health care) have become big business, to the detriment of society at large. On the other hand, this bill does get coverage for many people who don't have it. I will disagree that the people who will get this insurance are primarily young. They are, rather, adults without children under the age of 18, who do not have disabilities that would qualify them for Medicare under Social Security. That means there are plenty of older folks, both single and married, who will qualify as well. In the end, however, I think that the best answer to our health insurance dilemma is single-payor - essentially a "medicare for all" model.

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