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Members of House Finance Committee reverse course on Medicaid cuts

Last modified: 3/23/2015 11:35:18 PM
After voting last week to eliminate coverage for “optional” Medicaid services – not mandated by the federal government but still critical for many residents living with injury or disabilities – state representatives reversed course yesterday afternoon, opting to maintain funding after all.

State representatives from the House Finance Committee have been meeting for the last week to review Gov. Maggie Hassan’s budget proposal and put together their own state funding plan.

Citing a need to achieve a balanced budget with less revenue than what the governor was predicting, representatives last week proposed cuts to a number of Health and Human Services programs. Along the way, representatives voted to cut coverage for 20 categories of optional Medicaid services for adults over age 21 – including wheelchair van services, private duty nursing, inpatient and outpatient mental health, adult medical day care and audiology services, like hearing aids. In the days since, New Hampshire residents who use these services expressed serious concern that this decision would create serious financial burdens and jeopardize their ability to maintain a basic quality of life.

The head of the finance division reviewing HHS funding, Rep. Richard Barry, said the reconsideration came as a result of newly available money. The goal for HHS budget reductions over Hassan’s proposal is a “moving target,” he said, and when that target shifted, the division was able to add back in money it had previously tried to cut.

House Finance Committee Chairman Rep. Neal Kurk said the vote last week on this particular class of cuts was “the most difficult decision we made, inflicting the most harm on the most people.”

Both Kurk and Barry said representatives heard directly from citizens who were concerned about the potential impact of eliminating this kind of Medicaid coverage – but it was just one of many proposals that elicited feedback.

“It was our judgment that of all the things we had done, this was the one we were most reluctant to do,” Kurk explained a few hours after yesterday’s vote to restore the services.

Also yesterday, the division reviewing HHS funding restored $1 to ServiceLink Resource Centers in their budget proposal. While the division voted to eliminate funding for these programs last week, Barry said the inclusion of this line item is a way to leave open the possibility of funding these programs if more money becomes available in the future.

(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)


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