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HealthBeat

Hassan, Norelli announce compromise proposal for Medicaid expansion

After two hours-long public hearings yesterday about two different proposals for expanding access to health insurance in the state, Gov. Maggie Hassan and Speaker of the House Terie Norelli, both Democrats, announced today that their party is willing to compromise on some aspects of the expansion.

Democrats had proposed a program that would give adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level coverage through the same managed care insurance companies now overseeing most of the state’s Medicaid program.

Republicans in the Senate have proposed allowing that population access to managed care plans for one year, and then giving them federally funded premium support for two years, to buy insurance on the federal marketplace website.

“We are open to the Senate’s ideas, however, the bill as written by the Senate simply will not work,” Hassan said in a news release from her office this afternoon, announcing a proposed compromise.

The governor and speaker propose adopting the Senate plan for putting people on to the marketplace, but easing some of the deadlines written into the Senate proposal.

The initial proposals required the state Department of Health and Human Services to submit a waiver application to the federal government to authorize the program changes, but the Senate version called for the waiver to be written and submitted by May 1 and approved by Oct. 1.

At a hearing before a special Senate committee yesterday, HHS Commissioner Nick Toumpas said he was concerned about being held accountable for the actions of the federal agencies that approve waivers.

The Senate proposal also ends the expansion entirely on Dec. 31, 2016, when federal funding is expected to dip from 100 percent to 95 percent of cost. The Democrats’ initial proposal followed a commission recommendation to re-evaluate the program if the federal funding decrease below the levels outlined in the Affordable Care Act.

The exact timeline for the Democrats’ new proposal isn’t yet available, but in the release, Hassan and Norelli noted that Arkansas, the only state to have received a waiver for a premium-assistance version of Medicaid expansion, took a full year to develop its application.

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

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