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Moody's echoes alert over NH budget gap
The bond-rating agency Moody's Investors Service on Friday issued a "credit negative'' for New Hampshire, following on the heels of unwelcome news that Standard & Poor's lowered the state's outlook from "stable'' to "negative."
Bill Dwyer, commissioner of the state Treasury, said Saturday that the move by Moody's shouldn't immediately affect the state's borrowing costs.
The general obligation bonds "are typically used to fund non-Turnpike capital projects and improvements approved by the Legislature in each biennial budget, running the gamut from renovations at Hampton Beach to construction of the new women's prison in Concord," Dwyer said
Both Wall Street bond rating agencies were responding largely to a recent Hillsborough County Superior Court-North decision that the state's Medicaid Enhancement Tax, which is levied on hospitals' patient care revenues, was unconstitutional. The state is appealing the decision.
Moody's maintains its rating of the state's general obligation bonds at Aa1, while S&P rates them at AA, each one level below the highest possible rating category, Dwyer said.
Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, clearly wants a comprehensive solution.
"Moody's comments about the Medicaid Enhancement Tax reinforce the need for hospitals, providers, legislators and state officials to quickly work together to address the budget and health care challenges posed by the MET ruling, which was a direct result of short-sighted action taken in the FY 12/13 budget. The governor has been actively working with all relevant stakeholders to resolve these challenges as quickly as possible in a way that is fair to all parties, protects the state's budget and ensures the health and well-being of Granite Staters."
But the MET is not the only card in play. There are Medicaid expansion and state and federal programs to address uncompensated care; that is, the care hospitals provide for which they either don't get paid or get only partial payment through the Medicaid program.
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