Single mom gives emotional testimony for Medicaid expansion

Jan. 4—CONCORD — Amber MacQuarrie, a single mother of two from Dublin, said getting health coverage under Medicaid expansion became her lifeline after serious family health problems led to her losing a business and a rented home.

"My kids and I were homeless for a year and a half up until a couple months ago because the rent is too damn high. I can't imagine our medical needs not being met on top of everything else," said MacQuarrie, who broke down sobbing several times while speaking at a news conference Wednesday and lobbying for permanent renewal of this health care coverage for 90,000 low-income adults.

Human service providers and business executives joined with MacQuarrie to present a united front in support of Medicaid expansion.

The program will end later this year unless lawmakers vote to renew it.

In 2014, the Legislature adopted expansion in 2014 and then renewed it in 2019.

The benefit provides coverage for adults up to 133% of the federal poverty level or $36,908 annually for a family of four.

MacQuarrie had been running a home day care center when she needed heart surgery and had to go on Medicaid expansion.

Then her daughter, Olive, now 10, became seriously ill and was at times wheelchair bound. Both were later diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.

"We're not that special. We're just a small example in this big country that illustrates the need," MacQuarrie said.

The state's workforce shortage underscores the need to provide this coverage so families in entry-level jobs get the preventive health care they need, said David Juvet, executive vice president with the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire.

"It is not only the sound thing to do in New Hampshire, it's the right thing to do," Juvet added.

Feds pick up 90% of expansion coverage

Federal grants have financed 90% of the benefits to these individuals under Obamacare.

The state pays 50% of coverage for the 130,000 who receive traditional Medicaid.

The state's 10% share does not come from the general fund, which finances the state budget.

Instead, lawmakers decided to require the three managed-care companies offering this coverage to pay the state's insurance premium tax and also voted to take money each year from the state's alcohol fund, which receives 5% of net profit from state liquor sales.

Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, is sponsoring the legislation and said he supports keeping the existing sources of state support.

"That has proven to be very stable and worked well for the past nine years," Bradley said.

Jake Berry, vice president of New Futures, a public health policy organization, said he hopes lawmakers can find alternative ways to pay for it so the alcohol fund can be restored to its original purpose.

"The alcohol fund provides a lot of essential support for substance abuse programs on the front lines," Berry said.

Susan Stearns, executive director of the National Alliance for Mental Illness in New Hampshire, said her son suffering from a serious mental illness went on Medicaid expansion after turning 26 because he could no longer be on her family's insurance plan.

"For my child and many others, it has indeed proven to be a safety net," Stearns said.

State Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, and a new member of the House Finance Committee, said budget writers should closely review whether the program could be more efficient.

"Is their health getting better for the level of spending? That's the question," Hoell said.

Gov. Chris Sununu has said lawmakers should examine whether to keep offering the benefit through managed care or a different administrative model that could save taxpayers money.

klandrigan@unionleader.com