Sununu pushes back at Wisconsin senator over Medicaid

  • Gov. Chris Sununu speaks with the Monitor in Bedford on Tuesday, April. 11, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • In this Aug. 1, 2017 photo, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairs a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on Steve King, a prominent GOP insider from Wisconsin, nominated to be ambassador to the Czech Republic, on Capitol Hill Washington. An intriguing new theory is gaining traction among “Obamacare’s” conservative foes: The Medicaid expansion to low-income adults under former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act may be fueling the opioid epidemic. If true, that would represent a shocking outcome for government policy. But there’s no evidence that’s happening, say university researchers who have long studied the drug problem. Some say Medicaid may be having the opposite effect, helping mitigate the epidemic. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite

Monitor staff
Friday, October 13, 2017

Gov. Chris Sununu pushed back Thursday at assertions by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin that New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion program has experienced skyrocketing costs, pointing to analysis that suggested the claim was inflated.

Responding to a September letter from Johnson inquiring into the price tag of New Hampshire’s program, Sununu attached a review by Milliman, an actuarial consulting firm employed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The review, released Thursday, asserted that many of the costs alleged by Johnson were based on figures that had been interpreted and processed out of context.

Johnson’s letter compared usage costs for Medicaid expansion between 2014 and 2015. Among the findings for New Hampshire: Overall costs jumped 253 percent and per-enrollee costs 322 percent over the year.

But the Milliman review identified external factors that suggested those increases were not representative. To start, New Hampshire’s Medicaid program didn’t get started until halfway through 2014. Due to a gradual expansion, it could be expected to cost more in its second year, the review said.

The cost increase from one year to the next was also partly a result of delayed billing practices for claims made in the first year, the review stated, as well as temporary “operational issues.”

And the per-enrollee price figures in Johnson’s letter were calculated using a baseline enrollee count from the busiest month in 2014, rather than an average across the relevant months, the review found. Applying an average reduced the annual change from a 322 percent increase to 47 percent increase, according to the review.

“We hope that the Milliman letter responds to your questions and concerns, as well as sets the record straight on assumptions within your query,” Sununu wrote in response.

A spokesman for Johnson for was not immediately available to respond.