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N.H. Senate Has Its Turn to Weigh in On Re-Upping Medicaid Expansion

Paige Sutherland/NHPR
The room was packed as the Senate heard testimony Tuesday on whether to continue the state's Medicaid expansion program another two years.

The question of whether New Hampshire should continue its expanded Medicaid program is now before the state Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee heard hours of testimony on the issue Tuesday, and the debate there is falling along the same lines as it did in the House – it all comes down to cost. 

The main sponsors of the bill to re-authorize the state's expanded Medicaid have said time and again that continuing the program another two years will come at no cost to the taxpayers. 

That’s because state hospitals and insurance companies have agreed to cover the portion of the program the federal government will no longer be paying as of next year.

Related: HB1696 is broken down in our recent primer on Medicaid expansion.

But those opposed to Medicaid expansion continue to argue that hospitals and insurers will shift their share by increasing costs and premiums. 

Including Republican Sen. Andy Sanborn who asked nearly everyone who testified Tuesday to guarantee this won’t happen. 

“Is there anything in the bill or do you support something in the bill to prohibit this action so we can clearly and truly say there will be no cost to the people of New Hampshire?,” Sanborn asked repeatedly.

Hospitals and insurance companies have said they cannot promise costs won’t go up, as multiple factors determine rates, but they argue that without this program, costs will definitely go up for everyone.

Head of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, Steven Ahnen, argues the amount saved in having 48,000 citizens on health insurance outweighs the alternative.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars of resources that are coming into New Hampshire to help support those who provide care for patients is absolutely reducing the cost that has to be borne by those who provide it as well as by those who pay for it,” Ahnen said talking about the federal dollars coming in.

As well, Ahnen argues that the state has saved more than $140 million dollars in reducing uncompensated care costs and emergency room visits now that more people are covered. 

The Senate Finance Committee expects to vote on the bill next week. Gov. Maggie Hassan has repeatedly said she supports continuing expanded Medicaid.

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