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Medicaid expansion could end in 2016

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 15. 2015 9:06PM

CONCORD — A House committee voted along party lines Sunday to allow the state’s Medicaid expansion to expire on Dec. 31, 2016. a move a spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan called “misguided.”

Hassan had called for the expansion to be extended as part of her proposed fiscal year 2016-2017 budget.

During a Sunday budget review session, members of the House Finance Committee, Division III, voted 6-3 to remove an item from the budget that would have extended Medicaid expansion in the state into 2017 and beyond. Six Republicans voted to end the program, while three Democrats voted to extend it.

“Expanded Medicaid is a huge disincentive for people to work,” said Rep. Dan McGuire, R-Epsom, who voted to let the expansion sunset at the end of 2016.

“There wasn’t a lot of debate on it. Traditional Medicaid is designed to benefit people who are deserving of charity due to conditions beyond their control. Expanded Medicaid benefits people who are undeserving of charity. These are people who don’t have any reason for not working.”

Hassan spokesman William Hinkle issued this statement Sunday night: “Our bipartisan health care expansion plan is reducing health care cost-shifting onto our families and businesses, strengthening the health of our workforce, and boosting our economy. Nearly 37,000 hard-working Granite Staters now have the peace of mind and financial security that comes with quality, affordable health insurance.

“Despite this misguided vote, Governor Hassan will continue working with legislators from both parties to ensure that we maintain our commitment to our people, businesses, and the future of our economy through this critical program.”

According to the National Association of State Budget Officers’ annual report, in New Hampshire Medicaid grew from 24 percent of the overall state budget in 2012 to 27 percent in 2014.

Hassan included $12 million in her budget plan to fund Medicaid expansion past 2016, when federal funding is set to decrease and the Legislature must vote on whether to reauthorize the program.

About 34,000 Granite State residents signed up for the state’s expansion program, which provides coverage for individuals with incomes that fall within 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

“Allowing expansion to sunset would result in reduced savings and reduced revenues,” said Hassan as part of her budget address on Feb. 12. “Allowing expansion to sunset would result in increased cost-shifting onto all of our people and businesses. And allowing expansion to sunset would cause significant harm to the health and financial security of the thousands of men and women receiving coverage. We must maintain our commitment to our bipartisan health care expansion plan.”

Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire state director Greg Moore supported the committee’s vote.

“Medicaid is already eating the state budget alive, undermining critical services like education, public safety and citizens’ access to the courts. Today, the House Finance Committee made a wise decision to stop selling tickets onto the Titanic,” Moore said in a statement. “Moreover, Medicaid expansion actually provides a disincentive for people to work their way out of poverty and achieve prosperity. Today’s decision was the right course of action and an important first step to protecting the long-term future of state finances.”

McGuire said budget discussions scheduled for later this week could call for Medicaid expansion prior to Dec. 31, 2016.

“We are going to have to make some severe cuts in sections of the health and human services budget,” McGuire said. “One way we can help reduce those numbers are to end this program sooner.”

“Medicaid expansion primarily provides coverage to able-bodied, childless adults, people we should be encouraging to work, but it does so at the expense of other, needier groups,” Moore said. “Continuing this program will create more reductions in services for our seniors, for children and for the disabled.”

The budget must pass the full House and Senate before it is sent to Gov. Hassan to be signed. She has not said whether she would veto a budget that doesn’t contain the program.

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