As key vote nears, advocates push for permanent Medicaid expansion

·2 min read

May 9—CONCORD — On the eve of what could be a pivotal vote, advocates for business, seniors and health care providers urged a House panel to support Medicaid expansion on a permanent basis.

Mike Skelton, president and CEO of the Business and Industry Association, said in nine years the Granite State Advantage program has proven that it's cost effective and all the more critical as the state faces a chronic workforce shortage.

"This is a clear must do if we are going to keep the state on the right track," Skelton said at a news conference Tuesday.

Steve Ahnen, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, warned that a shorter extension of Medicaid expansion will translate into higher costs for taxpayers as vendors submit higher bids due to a lack of future certainty.

"The Granite Advantage Health Care Program provides the ability for these patients to receive the right care, at the right time, in the right place," Ahnen said.

Chuck Mattia, membership development director for the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, said an end to Medicaid expansion would bring back hundreds of millions a year more in uncompensated care provided in hospital emergency rooms.

"This cost shifting would constitute a tax on employers and employees," Mattia said.

Christine FitzPatrick, state director of AARP-N.H., said this coverage for 90,000 lower-income adults provides a critical safety net for the working poor.

"What many don't realize is that 70 percent of the people on the program are working and the people who aren't is for good reason, they are full-time caregivers or have health care issues that don't allow them to work," FitzPatrick said.

Heather McGrail, president & CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and Ed Shanshala, CEO of Ammonoosuc Community Health Services, also urged lawmakers to approve permanent expansion.

For the third time in recent weeks, the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee meets Wednesday to make recommendations on Senate-passed bills.

Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, the chief sponsor of the Medicaid expansion bill (SB 263), said it could be "realistic" if the House approves an eight-year extension of the program.

Skelton has stressed if the Legislature passes this law unchanged, lawmakers could return to revisit the program at any point in the future.