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September 18. 2013 9:39PM

Panel discusses Medicaid expansion options

CONCORD — The committee studying whether the state would expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act began to talk about some of the options before it on Wednesday.

Several committee members pushed to use all of the federal money available to pay for expansion rather than wait and see how other states fair under expansion.

Under Medicaid expansion, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost for new recipients for the first three years then gradually reduce its share to 90 percent by 2014 and thereafter. However, many Republicans doubt the federal government can live up to its promises.

“We are under time pressure to start Medicaid expansion because the highest benefit occurs in the first three years,” said doctor and Rep. Thomas Sherman, D-Rye. “I would encourage us to move forward to maximize the federal money available to us.”

But Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, disagreed.

“Frankly I think it is reckless of us to leap off a cliff without understanding the effect on taxpayers,” Sanborn said. “Before we go along a path, we need to take the time and fully analyze the costs.”

Sanborn and Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, pushed the commission to hire a financial analyst to help the committee sift through the options. “Our time is getting very short,” she said.

The commission developed a list of options although no vote was taken. Among the options are expanding the state’s Health Insurance Premium Payment program, which pays the private insurance premium provided. In general the majority of the committee favors taking the federal money to expand eligibility, but has not settled on a specific plan to recommend.

Expansion is supported by Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Democratically-controlled House, while the Republican-controlled Senate said it needs far more information and time before deciding.

When the two sides could not agree at the end of the session in June, budget negotiators agreed to form the commission with a deadline of Oct. 15 to make recommendations.

The commission meets again Sept. 24.

grayno@unionleader.com


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