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GOP Rejects Hassan's Compromise On Medicaid Expansion

Chris Jensen, NHPR News

Governor Maggie Hassan and House Democrats are offering to adopt the Senate’s plan for Medicaid expansion provided they make certain changes, but GOP leadership says the proposal falls short of a compromise.

On Wednesday, Hassan and House Speaker Terie Norelli outlined a package that would use the Senate’s language for expansion, but changes how and when individuals would access private insurance.

“While I believe that the bill offered by the House, which reflects the recommendations made by a bipartisan study commission, offers an effective path forward for New Hampshire to expand coverage to tens of thousands of working families while encouraging private insurance, we are open to the Senate’s ideas,” says Hassan in a statement.

Both plans start by using private insurance for eligible adults already on employer-sponsored plans and enroll others into the state's Medicaid managed care program. The Senate’s proposal shifts people onto the new health insurance exchange in 2015, with the federal government paying for private coverage.

Hassan says that idea won’t allow enough time for additional competition to develop on the exchange.

“We are willing to move toward the Senate’s basic framework, but only if we have timelines and measures in place that are in the best interest of our people and families,” says Hassan. “We need to move forward quickly to maximize federal funds, and we should use the 100 percent federal match period to establish a New Hampshire plan that will work from day one and for the long-term.”

Democrats say they’ll support moving people to the exchange over a longer timeline, describing a one year transition as “unworkable.” They are also pressing GOP Senators to end a prohibition on a state-run exchange.

But Republicans don’t appear eager to take up the offer.

“The Governor’s proposal is an unsustainable entitlement,” says Senate President Chuck Morse. “It eliminates the deadlines that the Senate believes are imperative to making a private program work.  Without definitive targets for when the newly eligible population will transition to private insurance on the exchange, the Governor’s proposal is nothing but a bridge to nowhere.”

Morse remains confident that state officials, working with the federal government, can also get waivers approved in time to carry out their plan .

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley rejected the idea of New Hampshire taking over management of its health insurance exchange, which is currently handled by Washington.

“Governor Hassan’s suggestion that the legislature should repeal the law signed by Governor Lynch that specifically prohibits a state-based exchange should be a nonstarter for anyone who has witnessed the ongoing failure of HealthCare.gov,” says Bradley.

The federal government released enrollment figures on Wednesday showing 269 New Hampshire residents had successfully selected plans through the exchange website.

Lawmakers in Concord are running out of time to reach agreement on an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program. There are committee votes on competing House and Senate bills scheduled for Thursday. A special session on Medicaid expansion concludes November 21 with a full vote on a final proposal. 

**Updated at 5:15 p.m. 11/13/2013 to include comments from Senate leadership

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.
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