My Turn: Medicaid expansion is good for patients, taxpayers, businesses
Have you ever delayed seeking health care for an obvious breast lump because you lack insurance coverage? Imagine how it is for women and their families when breast cancer gets diagnosed only after it has spread.
Have you ever had high blood pressure that was out of control, putting you at high risk of catastrophic stroke but been unable to continue to treat that disease because you lost your job and so you lost your insurance coverage?
If so, then you know why it is so important for the New Hampshire Legislature to take the steps necessary to accomplish what has been called Medicaid Expansion, which would expand New Hampshire’s Medicaid program to cover individuals earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
On behalf of the New Hampshire Nurse Practitioner Association, I am proud to register our group’s support for this proposal, because we believe this initiative will remove a financial barrier to appropriate health care for eligible New Hampshire residents.
New Hampshire’s more than 2,000 advanced practice registered nurses (nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and certified registered nurse anesthetists who hold the New Hampshire license abbreviation of APRN) are working in just about all health-care settings and organizations in the state.
This includes safety net clinics, as well as APRN-managed, owned and/or operated independent practices. Examples like the ones mentioned above are the sorts of things we see all the time in our practices.
Under the proposed Medicaid expansion, tens of thousands of New Hampshire citizens who do not have health insurance will gain access to health care, including access to important preventive services, timely acute-care services and ongoing chronic illness management. This will result in better health outcomes for these individuals in the short term and in the long-term as well.
There can be no denying that, for the individuals who will be covered under this Medicaid expansion, their health-care outcomes will be far better than will be the case without this expansion.
However, the benefits of this expansion do not stop with the people who are receiving care. Taxpayers and businesses will all be beneficiaries. The expansion will be funded fully by federal money during the first three years, and even after that, the federal government will pick up no less than 90 percent of the costs (as opposed to the current 50 percent federal Medicaid share).
Small businesses will benefit as the productivity of their lower-income workers is enhanced by newfound access to health insurance (and without increased cost to the employee or the employer).
Hospitals will now be paid for providing care to this new Medicaid population, a population made up of people who currently access health care by visiting emergency rooms and who are now part of the massive uncompensated care problem in this state. And the almost $2.5 billion in federal funds that are expected to come to New Hampshire as a result of the expansion will also have an indirect, multiplier effect as these funds continue to circulate through the economy and continue to create earnings and jobs for New Hampshire.
As front-line providers of health-care services to New Hampshire residents, we APRNs have made clear our commitment to working with the state to ensure the workforce demands of this expansion will be met, because we are convinced that this is one of the most important public health measures to have come before the state in many years.
We ask the Legislature to join us in committing to make this proposal a reality.
(Mary Bidgood Wilson of Moultonboro Family Health Care is executive director of the New Hampshire Nurse Practitioners Association.)