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Supporters, skeptics represented on N.H. Medicaid expansion study commission

Both supporters and skeptics will have seats at the table as a special commission spends the next three months studying whether New Hampshire should expand its Medicaid program.

The nine voting members of the study commission were announced this week by leaders from both political parties. Five were appointed by Democrats and four were named by Republicans.

The panel will hold
its first meeting Monday morning.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, and the Democratic-led House support expanding Medicaid starting next year. Federal money would cover the full cost of adding an estimated 58,000 low-income residents to the program for three years, and the federal government has promised to pay at least 90 percent of the bill in future years.

But the Republican-led Senate, led by President Peter Bragdon of Milford, blocked expansion from being part of the state budget that took effect Monday. They said the state must carefully study the pros and cons of expansion, and some expressed doubt the federal government would live up to its funding promise.

Lawmakers and Hassan agreed to set up a study commission to decide if expansion is right for New Hampshire and, if so, what form it should take.

The commission will submit its final report by Oct. 15. Hassan has said she expects a special session of the Legislature will then vote on Medicaid expansion.

The nine voting members of the commission are:

∎ Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat and chairwoman of the House Finance Committee division that handles the Department of Health and Human Services budget.

∎ Rep. Tom Sherman, a Rye Democrat and physician.

∎ Rep. Neal Kurk of Weare, the ranking Republican on the House Finance Committee.

∎ Sen. Nancy Stiles, a Hampton Republican and chairwoman of the Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee.

∎ Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Bedford Republican and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

∎ Sen. Peggy Gilmour, a Hollis Democrat and member of the Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee.

∎ Jim Varnum, former president of Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital.

∎ Dr. Travis Harker, president of the New Hampshire Medical Society.

∎ Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank.

Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny and HHS Commissioner Nick Toumpas will be nonvoting members of the commission.

Five of the voting members were named by Democrats. House Speaker Terie Norelli of Portsmouth appointed Rosenwald, Sherman and Harker; Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen of Concord appointed Gilmour; and Hassan appointed Varnum.

Four were named by Republicans. Bragdon appointed Stiles, Sanborn and Arlinghaus, and House Minority Leader Gene Chandler of Bartlett named Kurk.

Rosenwald, Sherman, Gilmour and Harker have all expressed strong support in recent months for Medicaid expansion.

Sanborn and Arlinghaus, on the other hand, have been vocal skeptics of expansion, and Kurk voted in March to support a bill that would have blocked Medicaid expansion. (The full House killed the bill.)

Stiles voted with the 12 other Republican senators last month to block Medicaid expansion from being part of the Senate’s budget. But she’s also indicated a willingness to consider expanding Medicaid in some form.

The commission will hold its first meeting Monday at 10 a.m., when it will elect a chairman.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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