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Hassan calls on Senate to pass Medicaid expansion

Governor Maggie Hassan delivered a press conference in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building on Tuesday afternoon, June 4, 2013 regarding Medicaid expansion.
(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Governor Maggie Hassan delivered a press conference in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building on Tuesday afternoon, June 4, 2013 regarding Medicaid expansion. (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Gov. Maggie Hassan joined health care providers and nonprofit advocates yesterday in calling on the state Senate to approve an expansion of Medicaid in New Hampshire.

She sidestepped a question, however, about whether she would expand the program without legislative approval, or veto a state budget proposal that did not include the expanded program.

“We are working with the senators of both political parties asking people to rise above political ideology to move forward with this. We need collaboration across the aisle in both chambers and in all branches of government,” she said.

The state is allowed to expand the Medicaid program, which offers health insurance coverage to low-income children, pregnant women, parents and people with disabilities, under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year upheld states’ rights to opt out of expansion, or opt in later.

Opening Medicaid to include anyone under age 65 who earns up to 138 percent of federal poverty guidelines would add 58,000 people to the program, according to one estimate. The federal government has promised to pay 100 percent of the cost in the first three years, which would mean $2.5 billion for New Hampshire. The state’s share of expanded Medicaid costs would increase incrementally, to 10 percent by 2020.

The Senate Budget Committee recently recommended establishing a commission to study the idea instead of implementing it Jan. 1. The full Senate will vote tomorrow on the budget and negotiate with members of the House to draft a final version later this month.

Hassan said it was “troubling that Senate leadership is leaving $2.5 billion in federal funds for expansion on the table.”

But opponents of the expansion say they don’t believe the promise of money is a guarantee.

Greg Moore, state director for the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, said in his previous experience as director of public affairs at the state Department of Health and Human Services, the federal government couldn’t be held to its promises of funding.

Other opponents to the plan objected to news yesterday that Hassan and other Democrats were looking for ways to expand the program even if the Legislature does not ultimately approve it.

On Monday, House Speaker Terie Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, said her legal counsel is looking at whether legislative approval is necessary. Sen. Sylvia Larsen of Concord, the leader of the Democrats in that chamber, said she believed the governor’s staff is also investigating that potential, and that she hoped the attorney general was, too.

In response, state GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Horn yesterday submitted a request to Hassan’s office for any and all documents and correspondence related to expanding Medicaid without legislative approval.

Horn called the expansion “reckless” and circumventing the Legislature “disgraceful.”

“Your actions . . . raise very serious questions about the professional and ethical standards of your administration,” Horn wrote, in requesting copies of all documents and correspondence related to any attempt to expand Medicaid without legislative approval. “Instead of working with the legislature to study the concerns relating to Medicaid expansion, you are exploring ways to violate state law. . . This is the kind of secret backroom dealing that we expect to see in Washington not in New Hampshire.”

Hassan said she’s devoting her energy to the present debate, not what she might do if expansion doesn’t pass.

“It appears that we do need legislative approval and collaboration in order to make this work,” she said. “I’m just focused right now on making sure that we work with Senate Republicans to find a way forward so we can do what’s right for our economy and our families.”

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

Legacy Comments1

Obama and the democrats have raised the federal debt in the last 4 years from $10 Trillion to $17 Trillion....now they want to offer even more FREE FEDERAL $$$.......my question is where do the democrats come up with the FREE FEDERAL $$$$$ ?........In a country of democrats where the option is Santa Claus or frugal balanced budgeting, what wins?

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