NHDP - ICYMI -- N.H. Medicaid expansion will save lives, money

In Case You Missed It -- Portsmouth Herald Editorial: N.H. Medicaid expansion will save lives, money

Key point: "The recommendations make good financial sense for the state, will provide quality health insurance and health management plans to tens of thousands of low-income residents, and will ultimately help drive down health care premiums for all residents....When it comes to health care, we all pay. Health care reform is about finding a way to pay fewer dollars up front for prevention rather than a fortune later on for catastrophic treatment. Medicaid expansion accomplishes this goal."

Portsmouth Herald Editorial: N.H. Medicaid expansion will save lives, money
 
October 17, 2013 

Readers will be excused if the legislative dysfunction in Washington, D.C., caused them to miss an important bipartisan legislative achievement here in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

In a unanimous vote, a commission comprising mostly Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate recommended expanding Medicaid in New Hampshire.

The commission's hard work and thoughtful recommendations are a credit to the Granite State and a triumph of common sense over political ideology.

The recommendations make good financial sense for the state, will provide quality health insurance and health management plans to tens of thousands of low-income residents, and will ultimately help drive down health care premiums for all residents.

We fully expect that after some rigorous debate, both the House and Senate will agree with these recommendations and will vote to expand Medicaid during a special legislative session from Nov. 7 to Nov. 21. The governor has already indicated she will sign Medicaid expansion into law if it is passed.

"With $2.5 billion in federal funds available to expand health coverage for up to 50,000 hardworking Granite Staters, we have a significant opportunity to improve the health and financial well-being of our families, strengthen our economy, and improve our state's financial future," Gov. Maggie Hassan said Wednesday. "I thank the Executive Council for approving my request for a special session, and I look forward to working with Senate President (Chuck) Morse, Speaker (Terie) Norelli and all members of the Legislature to enact a Medicaid expansion plan that works best for New Hampshire in time for federal approval before Jan. 1."

Two of the driving forces working to find compromise on Medicaid expansion were Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, and Rep. Tom Sherman, D-Rye. It was a pleasure to watch Sen. Stiles listen carefully to Sherman's insights regarding the best way to provide affordable patient care, and it was equally pleasing to see Sherman following Stiles' efforts to craft a deal that could win the support of the Republican-majority Senate. This was clearly a case of each side foregoing the perfect in pursuit of the common good.

One of the keys to getting this deal was the commission's recommendation that if the federal government reneges on its commitment to pay 100 percent of the costs of Medicaid expansion for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter, New Hampshire will automatically drop out of the program unless the Legislature reauthorizes it.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid is offered to individuals and families at 138 percent of the poverty level. Under Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire, adults under age 65 who make up to $15,000 or families of four earning $32,500 would now qualify for insurance under Medicaid.

In New Hampshire, Medicaid this year will be administered under three managed-care companies, so in addition to receiving health care coverage, Medicaid recipients will also have their care managed in a way that controls costs by emphasizing wellness care and preventive medicine rather than catastrophic and emergency care. In other words, it is far less expensive to identify hypertension and get it under control than to treat someone in the emergency room for a heart attack or stroke. Better to get diabetes under control through diet, exercise and medication than to let it go untreated until heart or kidney damage sets in.

When it comes to health care, we all pay. Health care reform is about finding a way to pay fewer dollars up front for prevention rather than a fortune later on for catastrophic treatment. Medicaid expansion accomplishes this goal.

At this time, 23 states and the District of Columbia have decided to expand the eligibility of their Medicaid programs, and 21 states have declined.

We look forward to New Hampshire becoming the 24th state to expand its Medicaid program and urge the Legislature to move quickly so the program can begin Jan. 1. We have lives and money to save.