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Senate Vote Puts Portion Of N.H. Partnership Health Exchange In Jeopardy

A highly technical bill meant to streamline insurance regulation in the state isn't receiving support in a Senate committee, an action that could block the state's efforts to partner with the Federal government on a new health exchange.

The bill, HB 668, was originally requested by the N.H. Insurance Department to bring state law inline with the Affordable Care Act. Without it, parts of the ACA will be in conflict with current state practice, meaning the Federal government will step in to regulate health insurance plans. Traditionally, the Insurance Department has held that role.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted 3-2 on Wednesday to kill the bill, though, with Republicans arguing the measure would have moved New Hampshire closer to a state controlled exchange, something prohibited by current statute.

HB 668 does not impact the 'Consumer Assistance' portion of the partnership health exchange. That piece still faces its own hurdles in a different measure before lawmakers.

The bill now goes before the full Senate, where Republicans hold a slim majority. 

So while nothing is settled, today's action by the Senate Commerce Committee did spark a wave of colorful statements, compiled below:

Governor Maggie Hassan:

“Once again, Senate Republicans have decided to put ideology ahead of the interests of the people, businesses and families of New Hampshire, and have given away control of our health insurance market to the federal government. HB 668 ensures that New Hampshire will continue to control our own health care and prevents the federal government from taking control of all health insurance products in New Hampshire for individuals and small employers. By killing HB 668, the Senate would make it more difficult to protect Granite State consumers, cause unnecessary confusion for all those looking to sell and purchase insurance, and potentially increase health insurance costs for families, businesses and individuals. I urge the full Senate to reject the committee’s recommendation and take action to maintain state-level control of New Hampshire’s health insurance market.”


Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro):

“Last year, Governor Lynch signed legislation prohibiting the creation of a state-based health care exchange under ObamaCare.  Contrary to the clear intention of that law, Governor Hassan and the Insurance Department have nevertheless been leading the state towards an ObamaCare exchange.  Today’s vote in the Commerce Committee makes it clear New Hampshire will not be directly involved in the establishment or operation of a health care exchange in the state.  Joining the federal government in this scheme will leave New Hampshire taxpayers and businesses on the hook for implementing the federal government’s health care takeover plans with little or no control over the direction it takes here in the state.  

Representative Ed Butler (D-Hart's Location), Chairman of the House Commerce & Consumer Affairs Committee: 

Today’s decision in the State Senate abrogates the state’s responsibility.  HB 668 would have made it possible for our state to continue to provide oversight through our Insurance Department for individual and small group health care policies once the Affordable Care Act “ObamaCare” goes into effect next January.  The 3-2 vote today to recommend HB 668 Inexpedient to Legislate will make it impossible for the state to oversee not only policies that will be offered through the new Healthcare Insurance Exchanges but also all individual and small group policies.”

Republican Party of New Hampshire:

"I applaud the Senate Commerce Committee's vote to recommend rejecting HB 668 because this legislation would put us on a path towards a state based health care exchange. Governor Hassan is trying to circumvent a law signed by Governor Lynch that prohibits a state based exchange, and essentially establish one on her own. Her reckless behavior would expose New Hampshire taxpayers to the devastating effects of President Obama's budget busting health care law. Polls show that Granite Staters overwhelmingly disapprove of ObamaCare because they know that it will hurt small businesses, damage our economy and kill jobs. Governor Hassan's backdoor attempt to impose a state based ObamaCare exchange shows that she is out of touch with New Hampshire's fiscally responsible values."


Senator David Pierce (D-Etna), Commerce Committee Member:


“The majority has been dangling this bill in front of the business community for months, creating uncertainty and confusion. Now they’ve voted to put the federal government in charge, create even more confusion, and even raise costs for consumers. Just remember the Wal-Mart rule: you break it, you bought it.  By breaking our insurance market, the Republican majority has bought all that is coming when people begin to have problems. The Republican move today is about one thing only: politics.”

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.
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