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Expanding costs: NH's Medicaid problem

November 18. 2012 6:32PM

Ah, Obamacare. Not only does it fail to control the rising cost of health insurance, it is poised to substantially increase the state's Medicaid costs. All those people who thought Obamacare provided "free" health care are going to learn differently when the state raises their taxes to pay for all the new Medicaid enrollees.

A new report from the state Department of Health and Human Services concludes that Medicaid would cost the state an additional $85 million by 2020 if the state agrees to expand eligibility as Obamacare recommends. (Obamacare required this expansion until the Supreme Court ruled that provision unconstitutional.)

Obamacare will result in about 30 million more Americans obtaining health insurance coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office. More than a third of them (about 11 million) will not get private insurance, but will be enrolled in Medicaid either because of its eligibility expansion or because of the mandate that forces them to get insurance. Medicaid, of course, is not free. Taxpayers fund it.

In New Hampshire, Medicaid has long been reserved for truly needy families: those who earn less than 63 percent of the federal poverty level. Obamacare sets eligibility at 133 percent of the poverty level. If New Hampshire expands eligibility to meet the Obamacare rule, the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the costs until 2014. Then, 90 percent (until Congress, unable to afford that, drops the subsidy to a much lower level). The $85 million quoted in the DHHS report could turn out to be far higher.

Gov.-Elect Maggie Hassan favors expanding Medicaid eligibility. She also campaigned on restoring funding to the University System of New Hampshire ($50 million a year) and a host of other programs and services. She has yet to say where she will find the money to pay for all of these things. In a few months, New Hampshire taxpayers are going to find out.

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