My Turn: Legislature applies Yankee frugality, but only sometimes
New Hampshire has a reputation for being stingy and, giving it a positive spin, we could salute our state’s frugality as a good Yankee value.
But let’s face it, New Hampshire frugality applies selectively. When lawmakers want to cut higher-education budgets and impose taxes on hospitals to jack up federal Medicaid reimbursements to enrich the state’s coffers, they are “frugal,” but not when it comes to taking advantage of a federal health care benefit for the poor.
Case in point: One part of the Affordable Care Act asks states to expand Medicaid coverage to additional numbers of the uninsured. In New Hampshire, such an expansion will cover about 50,000 presently uninsured low-income people, and the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of this coverage for three years, then 90 percent in succeeding years. This is a win-win for the state and for the uninsured poor. But the Republican-controlled state Senate voted no, raising such questions as whether it could trust the government to honor the plan.
These senators trust the federal government to continue to fund New Hampshire’s Medi-scam, which the state has operated for years – exacting a phony tax from hospitals to increase federal reimbursements and then splitting the extra take with hospitals. (Now they no longer split the “take” with hospitals.)
The last legislative session closed without approving the federally funded Medicaid expansion and established a study commission to consider the plan and other options such as the state funding its own expansion. Huh? The stingy state wants to pay for Medicaid expansion instead of letting the feds pay?
As reported in the Monitor, a consultant to the study commission has calculated the cost and coverage for a state-funded expansion independent of the feds. It will cost the state about $50 million the first year and cover just 20 percent of those who would be covered under the federal government plan. Not only that, but there will be a $5,900 annual deductible for each, in addition to a $100 monthly premium. Thus, there’s no coverage until after one spends nearly $6,000, in essence no coverage for poor people who are hardly in a position to spend half or more of their income on health care.
Where is the need to discuss this further?
As Adam Schiff used to say on Law and Order, “Take the deal.”
And step on it!
(Cate McMahon lives in Wolfeboro.)