NH businesses backing Senate bill to expand Medicaid eligibility
But opponents argued the proposal sponsored by three Republican and three Democratic senators is an open-ended entitlement that could bankrupt the state without improving health care outcomes for the 50,000 Granite Staters who would benefit from expansion.
Everyone with private health insurance is paying a hidden tax totaling about $427 million annually through higher health insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles, said Bradley, because Medicaid and the uninsured use health care services but do not pay the full costs or pay nothing.
But Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, pushed Bradley and others to say how much uncompensated cost would be reduced by expanding Medicaid eligibility. He believes that many more people will join the program than initially anticipated, as happened in states that expanded Medicaid, he said.
Bradley said the uncompensated costs are not going to disappear.
"If you do not want to face facts, you can kill the bill," Bradley said, "but you still have to pay for it. You're paying for it now."
A number of business owners and officials agreed with Bradley, saying the increasing cost of health care is hampering their businesses.
The vice president and chief financial officer of an Upper Valley business said the increase in health care costs last year prevented the company from expanding and adding jobs.
Justin VanEtten, who owns Stewart's Ambulance Service in Meredith, also supported the bill although as a Republican, he said he dislikes the Affordable Care Act. He said his company passes on its uncompensated care costs to the communities his company serves.
Other Republicans took a different view of SB 413.
At the news conference prior to the hearing, Aaron Day, chairman of Republican New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, said calling the bill a New Hampshire plan was patently false and does not represent the views of 99 percent of the state's Republicans.
Who is going to vote to end an existing program serving 50,000 residents prior to an election? he asked.
The new proposal would allow the state to begin the program by July 1, although it would end in a year if the state does not receive federal waivers for key aspects of the plan.
Others newly eligible for the Medicaid program would join the state's current managed-care program and would remain on "the bridge program" until Jan. 1, 2016, when they would have go to a private plan offered through the state's health insurance exchange although Medicaid would pay the premiums.
Under the ACA, state health care providers would receive about $2.4 billion in federal money.
The Senate hopes to take action on the bill by its March 6 session, and the House expects to vote on the bill by the end of March.
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