My Turn: Insurance plan is good for patients, good for the state
One of the biggest challenges facing our health care system today is that too many of our family members, friends and neighbors don’t have access to routine, preventative health care because they lack health insurance coverage. This is an issue hospitals in New Hampshire see every day, as those without insurance end up in emergency rooms when their health care condition has become a crisis and they turn to the only place they can for help.
The good news is that there is a proposal before the Legislature that seeks to address this long-standing challenge by extending private health insurance coverage to as many as 50,000 low-income uninsured New Hampshire residents. Hospitals, doctors and other caregivers have all come out in support of SB 413, the New Hampshire Health Protection Plan, and we encourage legislators to approve this bill and extend private health insurance coverage to more New Hampshire citizens.
We applaud legislators for their tremendous efforts to find common ground to move forward in a uniquely New Hampshire way. SB 413 would extend private health insurance coverage to low-income, uninsured New Hampshire residents who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $16,000 for an individual), and it would do so using only federal dollars. The people who would qualify for this new private health insurance coverage would soon be able to see a doctor or nurse to help them manage their health, monitor their chronic conditions and avoid waiting until they are in a crisis and have to seek care in the hospital emergency room.
Uncompensated care continues to increase at an unsustainable rate. In 2012, New Hampshire hospitals provided more than $425 million in uncompensated care.
We all pay for the cost of treating the uninsured through higher health insurance premiums, which is essentially a hidden tax that makes health care more expensive and makes us less competitive from an economic standpoint.
This bill will help reduce that level of uncompensated care and in turn reduce the amount of cost shifting within the system. That’s good for patients, providers, businesses and our state’s economy.
New Hampshire’s hospitals strongly support efforts to make the health care system better for our patients, who deserve to receive the right care, at the right place, at the right time, every time. Expanding private health insurance coverage is a major step forward for patients, families, providers, businesses and our state. Let’s pass SB 413, the New Hampshire Health Protection Plan.
(Steve Ahnen is president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association.)