Health
3:02 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Senate Committee Approves Medicaid Expansion

Senators Peggy Gilmour and Andy Sanborn debate SB 413.
Credit Todd Bookman / NHPR

 New Hampshire lawmakers moved a step closer to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee voted 4-1 on Wednesday to approve a plan that includes a “premium assistance program” which would require newly eligibly Medicaid recipients to select private health insurance starting in 2016.

Republican Senator Andy Sanborn of Bedford was the lone dissenting vote.

“We all want to help everyone that is in need, but this bill does nothing except spend a tremendous amount of money with no promise of outcome on the other end,” says Sanborn.

He cited a decision by Arkansas lawmakers to discontinue a similar “private option” as proof that New Hampshire should be pursuing a different course.

Members of the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 70-27 in favor of the plan on Tuesday, five votes short of the supermajority necessary for spending bills.

Under New Hampshire’s plan, an estimated 50,000 newly eligible recipients would gain coverage on July 1st through one of three managed care organizations (MCOs), which effectively manage administration for Medicaid recipients in the state.

Those companies would be able to include their policies in the federal exchange in 2016, giving recipients the option of continuing their plans.

Senator Peggy Gilmour, a Democrat from Hollis and co-sponsor of the New Hampshire legislation, says that’s “significantly different” than the Arkansas model.

The entire package hinges on approval from the federal government, and on the state receiving full funding from Washington. Under the bill, expansion sunsets at the end of 2016, meaning a future legislature would have to renew or revise the program.

The full Senate will vote on the bill following its February recess.