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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)