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House group votes in favor of Medicaid expansion


CONCORD — Reauthorizing Medicaid expansion for two more years received a boost Tuesday when the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted 17-1 in favor of the bill.

The committee did make changes to House Bill 1696, such as increasing exemptions to the work requirement, but left the core of the bill unchanged.
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The bill would extend the New Hampshire Health Protection Program for two years until Dec. 31, 2018, with insurance companies and hospitals kicking in $37 million of the state’s $51 million contribution once the federal government stops paying 100 percent on Jan. 1, 2017.
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“The plan we’ve developed will continue to serve the 47,000 New Hampshire citizens receiving benefits, with protections in place restricting the use of general funds and preventing new or increased taxes to fund reauthorization,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who sponsored the bill.
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At a public hearing last week, continuing the program was backed by a broad spectrum of people and organizations, from former addicts to the Business and Industry Association.

Most of the criticism of reauthorization came from Republican lawmakers, many of whom signed the Americans For Prosperity NH pledge to oppose continuing Medicaid expansion beyond the end of this year.
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The proposal includes a work requirement similar to the Temporary Aid for Needy Families program, which would require someone to work 30 hours, do community service or be in a job training or higher education program.
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To discourage the use of emergency rooms for routine medical care, an $8 co-pay would be charged for the first non-emergency visit and $25 for subsequent visits.

The program would end if the federal government fails to provide its promised contribution or if the hospitals or insurers fail to make their payments.
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Even with the modifications, providers, hospitals, insurance companies, advocacy groups and people covered today under the New Hampshire Health Protection Program backed the plan, with some touting the treatment and recovery services which help to fight the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic.
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“The NHHPP has benefitted the state by reducing the cost of uncompensated care by nearly $150 million, which is a hidden tax paid for by increases in private and employer-paid insurance premiums,” Bradley said. “I’m grateful for the strong support shown by numerous interest groups and business leaders for this plan, which will be a break in the rise of health care costs for everyone in the state.”
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The House is expected to vote on the bill later this month.

Senate passage is all but ensured if HB 1696 passes the House.

grayno@unionleader.com
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