CONCORD — House Republican leader Gene Chandler on Monday criticized the Democratic House speaker for her plan to revive Medicaid expansion this week.
“House Democrats have again chosen to ram this significant policy change through with little or no debate,” Chandler, R-Bartlett, said of a weekend announcement by Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth.
“This is one of if not the largest expansion of a government entitlement program the New Hampshire Legislature has ever faced,” he said.
After a commission studied the issue throughout the summer, the Democratic-controlled House passed a Medicaid expansion bill during a special session on Nov. 21, but it was killed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Norelli wrote in an opinion piece published in the New Hampshire Sunday News that the issue will be back when the House meets Wednesday.
“Without question, the single most important thing we must accomplish as soon as possible is expanding access to health care to 58,000 men, women and children across our state,” she wrote.
“Every day we wait to take advantage of the available 100 percent federal matching funds is a day with care not delivered to our citizens and dollars not invested in our state.”
She continued, “With nearly all of the northeastern states engaging in Medicaid expansion, we put our state at a competitive disadvantage (and a loss of $500,000 per day) by refusing to participate in the program.”
Norelli wrote that on Wednesday, “one of our first orders of business will be to amend a related retained bill to include Medicaid expansion. That is the quickest we can act on the subject, immediately sending the bill over to the Senate upon passage and minimizing New Hampshire’s lost opportunity.”
Chandler responded Monday in a statement, “Attaching such an expansive piece of legislation to an unrelated bill is not the right way to approach any issue, much less something of this scale.”
He wrote that the House “will be asked to vote on an amendment we haven’t even seen or been able to review. There will be no public hearing or opportunity for public input.
“It’s unfair to our representatives and to our constituents,” Chandler wrote. “This is not how we should do things in New Hampshire.”
“Why this surprise amendment is even necessary is beyond me,” continued Chandler. “Democrats will have a bill in the 2014 session that will address the same issue, and we will have an opportunity to thoroughly debate the merits of the policy.
“We see enough of this type of politics from Washington, and we don’t need it here in New Hampshire. New Hampshire citizens deserve better,” Chandler wrote.
“There are many issues and questions still unanswered regarding Medicaid expansion,” he wrote.
But Norelli wrote, “The state of New Hampshire and all of the people need us to pass a plan that works immediately. Each day that we wait means dollars not invested in our state’s health care infrastructure, care not received by men and women who desperately need it, and good jobs not created in our state.”