My Turn: Don’t let right-wing extremists hijack state Senate

  • State Sen. Jeb Bradley speaks in favor of a Medicaid expansion plan on the Senate floor on, March 31. The Republican-controlled Senate approved the bill to continue the plan for another two years. Jim Cole

For the Monitor
Published: 8/15/2016 12:10:10 AM

There are two types of politicians: persuaders and crusaders. Those who see compromise as a path to progress and those who self-righteously hold firm, sit on the sidelines and don’t participate. Over the past four years, the New Hampshire Senate has worked across party lines to make smart investments and expand opportunity for all people.

As a former civics teacher, I know that this is what our Founding Fathers designed – blending ideology with practicality; progress with stability; and individual rights with majority rule.

Unfortunately, with six Republican retirements in the state Senate, we will be losing most of the Republicans that are open to compromise. There is a real risk that the state Senate will be taken over by right-wing, uncompromising extremists who bow down to out-of-state billionaires. For the state Senate, there is a very clear choice and the only safe vote is Democratic.

There is no greater risk than the potential of losing the signature accomplishment of the New Hampshire Legislature: the bipartisan N.H. Health Protection Act, which expands Medicaid health care to nearly 50,000 low-income, hard-working Granite Staters at no cost to the state. Today, Aug. 15, marks the second anniversary of the start of this highly successful program.

Without question, this bipartisan health care coverage has been a resounding success. Uninsured emergency room visits are down significantly. Uncompensated care, a hidden tax on everyone, is down. The rate of health insurance cost increases has slowed. The health and financial security of nearly 50,000 of Granite Staters and their families is strengthened, thousands of Granite Staters now have access to substance abuse treatment, and businesses have more productive and healthier workers.

It has widespread support from New Hampshire’s business community, including from the statewide Chamber of Commerce. It has the support of our health care providers, our substance abuse professionals and our state’s law enforcement.

In fact, support for the program is so widespread that a total of nine Republican senators supported either the creation of the program in 2014 or its reauthorization earlier this year. But seven of those nine Republicans will be gone next year with recent Republican retirements.

There is, however, one group that opposes it. This group is funded by right-wing, uncompromising billionaire extremists who don’t live in New Hampshire. And the group has no health care expertise of any kind.

Yet, backed by billionaire extremists, the group has the gall to ask state Senate candidates to sign a “pledge” to end this successful health care coverage. Despite the group’s lack of any credibility, Republican candidates now running to fill the vacant seats are tripping over themselves to sign this “pledge.”

So, the fate of this successful, bipartisan heath care coverage hangs in the balance of the Nov. 8 election. I am proud to say that the entire Senate Democratic caucus has stood strong in their support for this health care coverage, both at its inception in 2014, and at its the reauthorization earlier this year. But we need more senators who are committed to strengthening the health of New Hampshire’s economy and combating the opioid crisis.

John Garvey will be one of them.

With a renewal vote in the Senate slated for next year, John will be a vote to continue our successful Medicaid Expansion program and ensure that the 1,812 hard-working citizens in District 8 continue to receive quality, affordable health care.

New Hampshire voters have a lot to consider on Nov. 8, but as we mark the anniversary of the start of health care coverage for close to 50,000 Granite Staters, I ask you to remember those who stand with our families and businesses, and cast your vote for those who do.

(Sen. Jeff Woodburn of Dalton is the Senate Democratic leader.)

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