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House Committee Probes Cost of Continuing N.H.'s Medicaid Expansion

Paige Sutherland/NHPR
House Finance Committee on Tuesday heard from Health Commissioner Jeff Meyers (center left) as well as insurance companies about overall cost of the program.

House lawmakers continue to examine how New Hampshire would pay for Medicaid expansion for another two years. On Tuesday GOP leaders on the finance committee were again looking for a guarantee that if passed, private insurance rates will not increase.

The Medicaid expansion proposal relies on federal dollars with the state’s insurance premium tax, with hospitals and insurance companies footing the rest of the bill.

But Finance Chair Neal Kurk, a Republican from Weare, questions whether this cost will eventually fall on those who pay for health care. 

“Is there any way we can make sure that insurance premiums are reduced?,” Kurk asked several times throughout the session.

Tyler Brannen of the New Hampshire Insurance Department told lawmakers that various factors in the market mean that cannot be guaranteed. But Brannen says if the program isn’t re-authorized, insurance companies will lose more than 48,000 of their clients, which will inevitably cause rates to rise.

“When you think about insurance – one of the best things insurer can have is predictability from year to year. Without predictability, which tends to happen when you have smaller numbers, you have to build in more of a buffer in order to deal with natural variability with smaller numbers,” Brannen told the committee.

The House Finance Committee is expected to vote on the plan Thursday. 

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