NHDP - ICYMI: Concord Monitor Op-Ed: State’s Health Care Expansion Plan is Working

ICYMI: Concord Monitor Op-Ed: State’s Health Care Expansion Plan is Working
Key Point: "As the long budget-writing season begins, I have one simple request for our representatives in Concord: Let us have an honest discussion about Medicaid expansion based on facts, not Sarah Palin-esque fear-mongering."

Concord Monitor: My Turn: State’s health care expansion plan is working
By Dr. Travis Harker

Remember Sarah Palin’s “death panel” myth?

While Palin’s ludicrous claim was thoroughly debunked long ago, the far right’s scare-mongering tactics to mislead the public live on.

If there’s been one constant throughout the history of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, it’s that opponents will not let anything – including the facts – get in the way of their arguments.

Two years ago, when I was serving on the Medicaid expansion study commission, I was impressed by the bipartisan effort to understand the facts about the benefits and costs of crafting a New Hampshire solution for the uninsured citizens of New Hampshire. It took the leadership of Senate Republicans to look past the sound bites and misinformation by a few well-funded extremists to craft the New Hampshire Health Protection Plan to benefit the people of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire’s bipartisan health care expansion plan is working. To date, more than 36,000 Granite Staters now have access to quality, affordable health coverage – many of them for the first time.

Many Granite Staters will remember that New Hampshire’s business community called on lawmakers to pass the expansion plan because it reduces cost-shifting onto families and businesses, makes our workforce healthier and boosts our state’s economy. And we’re already beginning to see the results.

But in light of the bipartisan plan’s success, new falsehoods are now being claimed – such as that Medicaid expansion is hurting seniors, children and the disabled by causing budget challenges at the Department of Health and Human Services.

That claim is simply not true.

The budget challenges at DHHS are due to more children getting on traditional Medicaid as the result of a change in federal law, not due to Medicaid expansion (which is paid for entirely by the federal government through 2016, with funding never dropping below 90 percent after that).

Additionally, Republicans in the Legislature insisted on unspecified “back-of-the-budget” cuts at DHHS – meaning legislators cut funds for the department without identifying which services should be reduced as a result. This practice allows legislators to avoid making tough decisions, letting them instead hide behind department heads who are later forced to cut services in order to ensure a balanced budget. Faced with these challenges, DHHS was forced to make tough choices, including foregoing a rate increase for nursing homes.

The budget that Gov. Hassan presented to the Legislature moves away from shaky budget tricks that have allowed the Legislature to promise more services than DHHS could really afford.

More importantly, the governor’s transparent and fiscally responsible budget reauthorizes the bipartisan expansion plan, providing the funds required to cover New Hampshire’s share in the next biennium.

For the sake of New Hampshire’s economy, and the health and economic well-being of our people, it’s crucial that the Legislature reauthorizes our successful expansion plan.

Members of the Republican leadership have shown that they can move beyond partisan politics to do what is right for New Hampshire. I’m hopeful that they will demonstrate the same leadership on this critical issue.

As the long budget-writing season begins, I have one simple request for our representatives in Concord: Let us have an honest discussion about Medicaid expansion based on facts, not Sarah Palin-esque fear-mongering.

(Travis Harker is a family doctor at the Concord Family Health Center and a former president of the New Hampshire Medical Society.)