Top Democrats say it’s possible Hassan could expand Medicaid without Legislature’s okay
New Hampshire's Maggie Hassan takes the oath of office for governor from State Supreme court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
The two top Democrats in the Legislature yesterday said lawyers are exploring the possibility that Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan could expand New Hampshire’s Medicaid program without legislative approval.
Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg demurred, writing in an email that “a number of people have raised this issue, but it appears legislative action is needed.”
Expanding the Medicaid program in 2014 using federal money, under President Obama’s 2010 health care reform law, was part of Hassan’s state budget proposal in February. It also was part of the budget passed by the Democratic-controlled House in April, but the Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee stripped Medicaid expansion out of its version of the budget, which will go to the Senate floor Thursday.
Senate President Peter Bragdon, a Milford Republican, has instead proposed creating a commission to study the issue. But at a news conference yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen said it’s possible Hassan can proceed with Medicaid expansion even without a green light from the Senate.
“I think that’s worth a legal research team working on, and I believe there is that possibility,” Larsen said. The Concord Democrat added, “I believe the governor’s staff is looking at it. I think – I hope the attorney general’s looking at it.”
House Speaker Terie Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, added, “I also have my legal counsel looking at it, as well.”
But Goldberg said Hassan still hopes Senate Republicans will opt to support Medicaid expansion.
“It appears that legislative action is needed, and Gov. Hassan strongly believes that Senate Republicans should rise above ideology and accept the $2.5 billion in federal funds available for Medicaid expansion, which will improve the health and financial wellbeing of our citizens and strengthen our economy,” Goldberg said in a statement.
Sen. Chuck Morse, a Salem Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was blunt yesterday when asked whether Hassan can expand Medicaid without legislative approval.
“No,” he said. “Obviously, she put it in her budget because she wanted legislative approval, and I think that still needs more debate.”
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
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