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Medicaid expansion agreement announced in time for State of the State

  • Governor Maggie Hassan delivers the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Governor Maggie Hassan delivers the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Governor Maggie Hassan, center, pauses beside her husband Tom, keft, and House Speaker Terri Norelli before delivering the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Governor Maggie Hassan, center, pauses beside her husband Tom, keft, and House Speaker Terri Norelli before delivering the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Becky Ranes, mother of Joshua Sayvon, a young boy killed last year as a result of a domestic dispute, stands in the gallery at Representatives Hall after being recognized by Governor Maggie Hassan during the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House. Ranes was recognized for the work she's done in helping SB 318, a bill that establishes the crime of domestic violence. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Becky Ranes, mother of Joshua Sayvon, a young boy killed last year as a result of a domestic dispute, stands in the gallery at Representatives Hall after being recognized by Governor Maggie Hassan during the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House. Ranes was recognized for the work she's done in helping SB 318, a bill that establishes the crime of domestic violence.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Governor Maggie Hassan delivers the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Governor Maggie Hassan delivers the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Governor Maggie Hassan delivers the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Governor Maggie Hassan, center, pauses beside her husband Tom, keft, and House Speaker Terri Norelli before delivering the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Becky Ranes, mother of Joshua Sayvon, a young boy killed last year as a result of a domestic dispute, stands in the gallery at Representatives Hall after being recognized by Governor Maggie Hassan during the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House. Ranes was recognized for the work she's done in helping SB 318, a bill that establishes the crime of domestic violence. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Governor Maggie Hassan delivers the State of the State on Thursday afternoon, February 6, 2014 at the State House.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

The early afternoon announcement of a bipartisan Senate agreement on Medicaid expansion was perfect timing for Gov. Maggie Hassan, giving a boost to her push for expanding access to health care for 50,000 residents in her State of the State address yesterday.

“With today’s positive step forward, it’s clear that we can work through this together and help working people access critical health coverage,” said Hassan, a Democrat, thanking both parties for their commitment to the issue. “Now, let’s get this done.”

A group of six senators, led by Senate President Chuck Morse, a Salem Republican, and Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, a Concord Democrat, has come up with a plan to use the federal Medicaid expansion money to help low-income people purchase private insurance. The Senate rules committee voted unanimously yesterday to allow Morse and Larsen to introduce this late legislation, and the Office of Legislative Services will now draft the bill. Republican Sens. Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro and Bob Odell of Lempster and Democrats Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester and Peggy Gilmour of Hollis have also given their support to the bill.

After Hassan’s speech, Larsen said senators have been working to come up with a plan that both parties could accept since Medicaid expansion failed to pass the Legislature in November’s special session.

“We did not – could not – accept the failure and just sit down and say, ‘Well, we give up,’ ” Larsen said.

Even in November, both parties said they wanted to expand Medicaid through private insurance, but they differed over the timeline. Democrats wanted to wait until more than one company was selling plans on the new federal exchange; Republicans set an earlier deadline.

In a statement, Morse also expressed confidence that the new agreement can draw the support needed from both parties to succeed.

“As a result of those productive conversations, we have agreed to a framework for legislation that we believe represents a truly bipartisan compromise, and accomplishes our shared goals of increasing access to private insurance coverage while protecting New Hampshire taxpayers,” he said.

Members of the House and Hassan have also been briefed on the agreement. In her address, Hassan said this could give 50,000 people access to health care.

Casinos, pot, education

Beyond backing the Medicaid agreement in her speech, Hassan again stressed the state’s need to improve its mental health care system, while expressing her support for expanded gambling in the form of one highly regulated casino and her opposition to marijuana legalization.

On casinos, Hassan warned lawmakers that New Hampshire could lose $75 million per year to Massachusetts in casino revenue if an expanded gambling plan is not approved. She strongly expressed support for the one-casino bill developed by the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority that was heard earlier in the day by the House Ways and Means committee.

Despite the House vote earlier this session to legalize marijuana, Hassan reiterated her opposition to legalization, telling lawmakers it would make New Hampshire’s roads less safe, cause more young people to use marijuana, make the workforce less productive and “undermine” public health.

“Our state already has one of the highest rates of marijuana use by young people in the country, and marijuana has real, negative health effects, especially on adolescents,” she said.

A lengthy portion near the beginning of Hassan’s speech focused on education, in which she made clear her support for the Common Core education standards and stressed the need for more investment in science, technology, engineering and math programs. To do this, Hassan said she will create a task force dedicated to the issue and help develop partnerships between manufacturers and local schools.

Hassan also took a stand of support on several issues coming before the Legislature this year, including bills that would increase the minimum wage, make domestic violence a crime and expand background checks to keep mentally ill people from purchasing firearms. Becky Ranes, the mother of 9-year-old Joshua Savyon, who was killed by his father last year, was in the audience. Hassan recognized Ranes by name while stating her support for the bill addressing domestic violence.

On transportation, Hassan discussed the widely acknowledged need to improve the state’s ailing roads and bridges and the difficulty the state has had in finding money to do so over the years. Hassan did not specifically mention raising money through an increased gas tax, but she referenced Sen. Jim Rausch, a Derry Republican, who has promoted a gas tax increase tied to inflation, by name in her speech, thanking him for leading efforts to address the problem.

House Speaker Terie Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, issued a statement after the speech praising several of Hassan’s priorities, from promoting pay equity to improving the state’s infrastructure.

“The governor has demonstrated not just a great vision for our state but also that it can be achieved,” Norelli said.

After the speech, Bradley and House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, a Bartlett Republican, said Hassan’s speech had a good bipartisan tone, but they would like details on some proposals. Her speech highlighted several things Republicans agree with, including decreasing certain regulations for businesses with solid compliance records and protecting New Hampshire’s scenic vistas, Bradley said. (Hassan discussed the need to find affordable energy sources that don’t sacrifice New Hampshire’s landscape, but she made no direct mention of the Northern Pass project.)

On efforts such as improving the mental health care system and increasing funding for the Children in Need of Services program, she offered no means of how to pay for those improvements, Chandler said. Although she applauded Rausch’s efforts, she didn’t say whether she supports a gas tax. The state has to be careful about what it spends, Chandler said.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Related

Text of N.H. Gov. Maggie Hassan’s State of the State speech

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The following is Gov. Maggie Hassan’s State of the State address, as prepared for delivery today and distributed by the governor’s office. Madam Speaker, Mr. Senate President, Madam Chief Justice, honorable members of the House, Senate and Executive Council, my fellow citizens: A little more than one year ago, I was honored to assume the privilege and responsibility of serving …

Legacy Comments2

I'm very happy to hear about the bi-partisan plan to extend health insurance coverage to lower income adults. I do hope, however, that Governor Hassan can bring some influence to bear and try to get more providers on the exchange. Health insurance is not going to be as effective as it could be if people with few dollars for gas (or no cars at all) have to travel several towns over to find a provider who accepts their insurance. They'll still end up at the local hospital for non-emergencies.

Well, too bad, you can thank Obamacare for that.

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