Key Point: "...the claims by Morse and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley that the governor poisoned the talks is an attempt at political misdirection... The governor’s comments were a deal-breaker only because there was really no deal to be had in the first place. The conservative wing of the Senate Republican caucus saw to that. The shame is that moderate Republicans who might have been inclined to support expanded Medicaid didn’t, but for reasons of politics, rather than policy."
Nashua Telegraph Editorial: There was really no Medicaid deal to be had
It took virtually no time for Republicans and Democrats to blame each other for the breakdown in negotiations over whether to expand Medicaid in the state to cover the state’s poorest adults.
The two chief protagonists in the political drama that played out Wednesday in Concord were Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan and Republican Senate President Chuck Morse, who gave dueling point-the-finger press conferences within minutes of one another after talks broke down. Hassan claimed Senate negotiators had agreed to her latest proposal when they left the table, but Morse declined to sign off on it.
Morse said Hassan poisoned the talks over the weekend by bad-mouthing the Senate plan as “worse than no deal at all.” He also objected to Hassan going into the districts of Republican senators and stumping for expanded Medicaid.
Lost in all of this is the fact that about 20,000 of the state’s poorest residents are going to be left without health insurance that they otherwise could have had.
Democrats have made no secret of the fact that expanding Medicaid to cover poor adults is a party priority. They have sounded eager in their willingness to sign on to almost anything that would bring that goal closer. For that reason, Hassan’s claim that she compromised on several fronts has the ring of truth. Democrats were willing, for example, to transition Medicaid recipients over to the private health insurance market, which was a key Republican principle.
The sticking point was when. The breakdown came when Morse insisted that the state limit the duration of Medicaid benefits for its poorest adults to no more than a year before transitioning them to the private marketplace in 2015. Hassan originally wanted the transition to take place in 2017, but was willing to compromise at 2016.
Morse refused to budge on his timeline, which the governor said wasn’t enough time, and talks broke down.
Opposing Medicaid because the state will eventually be on the hook for part of its cost is an entirely defensible fiscal position, though perhaps not to the state’s poorest residents for whom emergency rooms will remain their only option. But the claims by Morse and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley that the governor poisoned the talks is an attempt at political misdirection.
Hassan could have been more circumspect in her remarks, sure, but Morse and Bradley have been around long enough to know that political rhetoric is all part of the landscape. The governor’s comments were a deal-breaker only because there was really no deal to be had in the first place. The conservative wing of the Senate Republican caucus saw to that. The shame is that moderate Republicans who might have been inclined to support expanded Medicaid didn’t, but for reasons of politics, rather than policy.
And speaking of politics: The last time we checked, Maggie Hassan was governor of the entire state and wasn’t required to obtain anybody’s permission to travel the state, so Sen. Morse’s professed resentment about the governor visiting Republican Senate districts to drum up support for expanded Medicaid is another diversionary tactic. Ironically, Hassan was merely taking a page from the playbook of President Ronald Reagan, who was famous for ratcheting up the pressure on Democrats in Congress in much the same way.
The special session was Morse’s first real test since he took over as Senate president for Peter Bragdon. Morse may have won the battle and vanquished the expanded Medicaid demon, but the fact that he couldn’t control his caucus doesn’t bode well for the upcoming legislative session, when he will probably need Democrats more than ever to come along on some issues in a Senate where Republicans hold just a 13-11 majority.