Providers, Public Make Case for Medicaid Expansion

Members of the commission studying Medicaid expansion listen during public testimony Tuesday in Representatives' Hall in the State House.

Members of the commission studying Medicaid expansion listen during public testimony Tuesday in Representatives’ Hall in the State House.

Study Commission Heard Several Hours of Testimony at State House on Tuesday

The commission studying Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire met again Tuesday, hearing first to medical providers, then from members of the public. The vast majority of those who spoke during the hearing – held in a warm, crowded Representatives’ Hall — were strongly in favor of expanding Medicaid here. That expansion would allow as many as 58,000 to sign up for affordable, reliable health care.

The expansion would be paid for in full by the federal government for the first three years, with the state paying 10 percent in subsequent years. The study commission, which was part of a budget compromise, has been taking testimony for several months and must report its findings by mid-October. A special session of the Legislature is expected to be called after that to decide on expansion.

Medical providers provided a united front in favor of expansion Tuesday, with an official from LRGHealthcare calling it a “public health and economic imperative for our state.” Many of the members of the public who spoke made points along the same lines.

SEA member Ann Flanagan, speaking as a concerned citizen, pointed out that one of the primary functions of government has always been caring for those who need help.

“I’ve listened to some of the online testimony about Medicaid expansion, and for some it’s about not spending money on anything — they should be ashamed,” Flanagan said. “You people are our leaders, we need you to make it your priority to advocate for the weakest among us.”

“There are plenty of ways to save money, but denying care for the poor, sick or disabled is not one of them,” she said.

SEA President Diana Lacey, who also spoke Tuesday, agreed with that sentiment.

“There is no reason good enough to turn our backs on these people,” she said. “We are all connected to each other, their pain and suffering is ours, because we love these people — our children and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, our best friends and neighbors.”

“The federal government is standing up for our loved ones needing Medicaid expansion,” Lacey said. “Please allow the people of New Hampshire to do so, too.”

In her testimony, Flanagan also brought up a financial argument – the federal aid for Medicaid expansion comes from taxes we’ve already paid.

“It’s not like they’re going to give us a refund if we refuse the federal funds,” she said. “Rather, our money will get used by the other states who are accepting Medicaid expansion.”

“When someone is uninsured, they just go to the emergency room without the benefit of a managed care system, so we all end up paying for it anyway when the costs get shifted to the insured,” she said. “So in effect, we’re paying for them twice. Increased costs to everyone else and unspent paid federal tax dollars.”

“I think it would be irresponsible not to accept funds for Medicaid expansion, which could help people who need it most, and allow resources to be administered more responsibly and efficiently through a managed care system,” Flanagan said.

The study commission is set to meet again Sept. 3. You can read meeting minutes and view presentations online at www.dhhs.nh.gov/sme/index.htm.

 

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