CONCORD — New Hampshire joined 25 other states Thursday in expanding Medicaid eligibility when Gov. Maggie Hassan signed Senate Bill 413 into law.
The bipartisan legislation will provide health insurance to 50,000 low-income adults in a two-and-a-half year pilot program using private health insurers paid for with federal Medicaid money.
"Our bipartisan health care expansion plan is a historic step forward for the health and financial well-being of Granite State families, businesses and communities," Hassan said. She called the plan a fiscally responsible, uniquely New Hampshire solution that will help the state's economy and improve the lives of 50,000 working people.
The plan uses federal Medicaid funds pay for health care for adults earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level — around $16,000 for an individual — have access to health insurance.
Supporters say Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act will help reduce the uncompensated care hospital provide to those who cannot or do not pay for services, encourage primary and preventive care, and provide coverage for substance abuse and mental health treatment.
For the next three years, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost. Lawmakers will have to reauthorize the program when the state begins paying a portion of the costs, which is currently capped at 10 percent.
The state's health care providers are expected to be paid about $340 million a year for services provided to the 50,000 people who qualify under expansion.
About 12,000 people who qualify and have insurance through their employers would begin coverage under an existing state program in four to six weeks.
The other 38,000 would go onto the state's Medicaid managed care program July 1 and then move to private insurance during 2016 if a waiver is approved by March 31, 2015. If the waiver is denied, the program would end in six months.
Long-time opponents of expansion continued to criticize the plan.
"Today, New Hampshire embraced a major portion of ObamaCare by expanding Medicaid," said Greg Moore, Americans For Prosperity-NH state director. "Sadly, like most of that disastrous law, this will do more harm than good, by increasing waiting times in emergency rooms, driving up costs through inefficient care and lowering the quality of care for thousands of New Hampshire residents who will be dumped onto a substandard Medicaid program.."