Key Point: "Emotions ran strong after the state's Republican-led Senate rejected two plans to extend Medicaid coverage in the state last Thursday.... for one of Stiles' constituents, Ronnie Werner of Rye, the damage is done. She said she was 'beside (herself) mad' at Stiles' vote. 'She is going to be challenged by a Democrat (at next year's election) and because I'm lucky enough to be retired, I'll just work like all hell to get her out of the Senate and I'm not alone in that,' she said."
Portsmouth Herald: Stiles at center of Medicaid expansion debate
By Nick B. Reid
November 26, 2013 2:00 AM
HAMPTON — Emotions ran strong after the state's Republican-led Senate rejected two plans to extend Medicaid coverage in the state last Thursday. Several local Democrats targeted their anger at state Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, who supported the Senate bill and rejected the House bill.
State Rep. Chris Muns, D-Hampton, a champion of Medicaid expansion, said "it was probably the most discouraging day I've had in Concord," as the Legislature's efforts to compromise for the benefit of 50,000 low-income adults that would have been eligible for health coverage failed.
A special session of the Legislature expired Thursday, after a nine-person commission to study Medicaid expansion in the state, including Stiles, voted to recommend expansion this summer. Each chamber of the Legislature proposed its own solution, mainly differing on the timeline by which the newly insured would be transferred from state coverage to private insurance.
Muns said the Senate bill's timeline, which would shift people by Jan. 1, 2015, was "totally impractical," compared the House bill's Jan. 1, 2017, goal. Gov. Maggie Hassan and Democratic House members wanted to give additional insurers time to join the sole insurer on the marketplace, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Muns termed the day's events a "triumph of ideology of practical, common-sense solutions."
But Stiles, who reassured her constituents Friday that she's not done working on a Medicaid compromise, said the House bill had problems of its own.
"Many of the things the House had in their amended bill, they really moved to a lot of what the Senate wanted," Stiles said. "But they still had some provisions in it I didn't think were appropriate."
Stiles said she wanted to see the following in the bill: a trust fund to keep the federal dollars the state receives separate from the overall budget, so they aren't involved in the budget process; and a three-year sunset provision, so the Legislature can evaluate the program and make appropriate modifications. She also said she worried about the consequences of creating a state health exchange, which she said would take time and cost as much as $10 million. And she insisted that the more aggressive timeline Republicans proposed is doable and would force timely action.
Stiles acknowledged that she voted for the Medicaid expansion concept presented at the conclusion of the summertime study commission, but said those sticking points, and others, were enough that she couldn't go along with the House bill.
"There's no need to move forward with something that has pieces in it that you don't like and you don't have time to secure all the amendments to correct it," she said, noting that she's meeting after Thanksgiving with a bipartisan group of senators "to see if we can't come to an agreement when we come back in January to fast-track a bill and move things forward."
But for one of Stiles' constituents, Ronnie Werner of Rye, the damage is done. She said she was "beside (herself) mad" at Stiles' vote.
"She is going to be challenged by a Democrat (at next year's election) and because I'm lucky enough to be retired, I'll just work like all hell to get her out of the Senate and I'mnot alone in that," she said.
Larry Drake, chairman of the Rockingham County Democrats, said he was "very disappointed" by Stiles' vote.
"I just think she bowed to the pressure from the right wing of her party, and I think that's unfortunate for the state," he said.
As for Muns, he agrees with Stiles on one thing: the issue isn't going away. He said Democratic leadership is going to find a way to bring it up again in January.
"I'm sure (Sen. Stiles) was trying to make something happen — I'm not going to question her on that point of view — but the fact is, when it came time to cast a vote, she voted against it," he said. "The door was open on Medicaid expansion, and the Senate Republicans just slammed the door right in the face of (the uninsured)."