New Hampshire’s expanded Medicaid Program, which offers health insurance to 48,000 Granite Staters, will continue another two years. That’s after Gov. Maggie Hassan promised to sign the legislation that cleared the Senate Thursday 16 to 8.
The debate on the Senate floor lasted more than two and a half hours, with most of the arguments between Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, one of the bill’s main sponsors, repeatedly defended reauthorization, saying it continues the program without any new taxes, fees or state dollars. And he also cited the 6,000 people who have accessed substance abuse services through the program.
“So we are going to now turn down 40 percent of the funding in a midst of a heroin crisis? I’m not. Maybe some people are but I’m not," Bradley told his colleagues before the vote.
Related: HB1696, the reauthorization bill, is broken down in our recent primer on Medicaid expansion.
But Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Republican from Bedford, argued the program discourages people from working.
"Do we want to vote for a message that says -'I don't want to work hard. I don't want to do my fair share?,'" Sanborn asked
This comment invoked Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, a Democrat from Manchester to rise in passionate disagreement, arguing that 40 percent of the people on the program have jobs.
“I find that objectionable and I will not accept that – these are good hard-working people, they need help. In order to work you need insurance," D'Allesandro said with a raised voice.
If the federal government approves the plan, starting in 2017, able-bodied adults in New Hampshire will have to work or volunteer 30 hours a week to receive benefits.
So far similar requirements from other states have all been rejected. Federal officials are expected to make a decision in the next couple of months.