GOP senators say Hassan reneged on promise to detail health care exchange
Republican members of a legislative oversight committee on Friday sparred with Gov. Maggie Hassan's office about whether they will have a voice in how the state implements a key portion of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
Sens. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, and Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, and Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, charged Hassan reneged on a promise to provide them with a detailed Memorandum of Understanding on how the state will put into effect a health care exchange partnership with the federal government to help consumers and businesses find health insurance.
Sanborn has said a state law that created the oversight committee gave that body the authority to approve the exchange details.
A state law prohibits a state-based exchange, but it is unclear whether that law is superseded by the ACA or by a narrow provision of the state law that the state Insurance Department believes gives the insurance commissioner authority over insurance programs.
Senate GOP spokesman Tom Cronin said Sanborn met with Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny last week "and (Sanborn) was told that an MOU (memorandum of understanding) is no longer required, and that was confirmed by the governor's staff (Thursday) night."
Cronin said the senator had previously been told that "an MOU would be brought forward with what the federal government would be responsible for and what we'd be responsible for and where the lines are, and that there would be an outline of what's next."
Cronin pointed to an Insurance Department document on the ACA that says an MOU is among the steps required of the state by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in setting up an exchange.
Sanborn, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement, "The governor's suggestion that she can single-handedly implement ObamaCare in New Hampshire without a contract or MOU of how the federal government is going to take over providing insurance to New Hampshire citizens is astonishing.
"The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will forever change how insurance is provided to the people of this state and the governor's office is now deliberately pulling back on a promise to be transparent and disrespecting the legislative process," Sanborn said. "This act of purposefully withholding details on ACA implementation only further suggests the governor and Washington bureaucrats do not want the Legislature, taxpayers, or small business owners to know the details or costs of this expansion.
"New Hampshire government does not operate under the cover of darkness, and the governor needs to bring an MOU to the oversight committee, as promised, showing a complete, detailed plan of how she intends to implement this costly venture," Sanborn said.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said he was "extremely disappointed" that Hassan "is seemingly reneging" on a promise.
Said Hunt: "After listening to the presentation from the Executive Branch, I conceded to considering the state enter into a partnership exchange to protect New Hampshire's interests, specifically because the governor's office committed to providing an MOU to our committee which would provide complete details on how the ACA would be implemented. Now that the governor has refused to share an MOU, the people of this state have no idea on the cost, timing, affects and options associated with how the exchange, partnership and plan management will be enacted and operated."
But Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said the senators are mistaken in their charge that the governor is trying to be secretive.
"The governor is focused on working together to solve problems," he responded in a statement. "That is why it is disappointing to see Republican members of the health care oversight committee attempting to turn our constructive efforts to share information into an opportunity for political grandstanding."
Goldberg said that earlier Friday, "members of our staff met with staff of Republican leadership to inform them that the federal government is not mandating an MOU and is willing to pursue a partnership exchange under the stipulations in the state's declaration letter, which the committee was given the opportunity to review and provide input into."
The next meeting of the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee is scheduled for Tuesday.