Hassan: New Hampshire Needs Common-Sense Health Care Solutions, Not Legislative Takeover of Medicare

CONCORD – New Hampshire needs common-sense, mainstream health care solutions, not the Ovide-O’Brien-Smith plan to take over Medicare, Maggie Hassan, Democratic candidate for Governor, said today. 

“One of the reasons I am running for Governor is to safeguard access to quality, affordable health care for New Hampshire families and businesses,” Hassan today at a press conference, where she was joined by state Rep. Donna Schlachman, former Vice Chair of the House Commerce Committee and New Hampshire seniors. “That is why I am here today to speak out against legislation that would allow the New Hampshire legislature to take over and cut Medicare for seniors.” 

The state Senate last Thursday held a hearing on HB1560, creating “an interstate health compact.” The House has already passed the legislation, over the objections of the policy committee that considered the bill.  Under the proposal, the legislature would take over Medicare for seniors from the federal government; the federal government would only give the state block grants for Medicaid; and the state legislature would have the authority to overturn any federal health laws – such as those that bar insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. 

Both Republican gubernatorial candidates, Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith, have endorsed the risky plan, which the State Committee on Aging has said could have a “major and potentially destructive impact on health care for seniors.”  

“Seniors pay their whole working lives for Medicare. Under this plan, workers would still pay a tax for Medicare health insurance – but now they would not be guaranteed Medicare coverage once they reached 65. This legislature has already cut health care access for tens of thousands of New Hampshire citizens. We should not trust them with Medicare,” said Hassan. 

Hassan said that in the upcoming campaign she will outline her own health care proposals for New Hampshire. 

“The right way to reduce health care costs is to better coordinate care for the sickest patients; to reduce unnecessary utilization; and to ensure that we have transparency in health care financing,” Hassan said. “As Governor, I will stand strong against any plan – like this one – that takes health care away from the people who need it most.”

In a recent op-ed, Ovide Lamontagne said the takeover of Medicare would be one of his top priorities as governor.  Lamontagne has also expressed support for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, which would make seniors pay more for health care and put private for-profit health insurers in charge of their care. Other advocates have deemed this proposal “revolutionary” – and that’s exactly what it is: a revolutionary change that would take away health care for New Hampshire seniors.  

“New Hampshire seniors can’t afford the Ovide-O’Brien-Smith health care plan. It could leave tens of thousands of our seniors, children and people with disabilities without health care,” said Rep. Schlachman. “Medicare has been an enormous success for our nation. It has helped keep seniors out of poverty, and ensure that they live longer, healthier lives. The O’Brien legislature has already shown a willingness to make severe cuts to Medicaid. They can’t be trusted with Medicare.” 

This proposal is a gimmick, promoted as an out-of-state group as part of an effort to “get the federal government out of health care,” Schlachman said. 

“As Governor, Maggie Hassan will focus on finding mainstream, common-sense solutions to control health care costs and expand access. We’ve already seen that Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith will choose extreme right-wing gimmicks over the hard work of helping people,” Schlachman said. 

Russ Armstrong, Chairman of the State Committee on Aging, wrote in a recent Concord Monitor Op-Ed that “the State Committee on Aging does not lightly take strong positions on pending legislation. However, HB 1560 is so egregious and potentially dangerous to the future of senior health care that we adamantly oppose the bill. Seniors should be aware of the threats to their health care and encourage their legislators to oppose this bill.”

Paula Bradley of Concord, is a senior relying on Medicare. 

“First, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan proposed turning Medicare into a voucher program. Now Ovide Lamontagne, Kevin Smith and the New Hampshire legislature want to take it over? No thank you,” Bradley said.  “I don’t trust Ovide Lamontagne or Kevin Smith and this legislature to run my Medicare, and other New Hampshire seniors shouldn’t either. People who want to be governor of New Hampshire should be standing up for us, looking for common sense solutions, not embracing fringe ideas.”