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Next Week: “Critical” Turning Point for Health of 50,000+ in NH

PHOTO: AARP New Hampshire volunteer Sherri Harden leads a press conference on Medicaid expansion. Photo Credit: Anne Saunders

PHOTO: AARP New Hampshire volunteer Sherri Harden leads a press conference on Medicaid expansion. Photo Credit: Anne Saunders
June 14, 2013

CONCORD, N.H. – It has been a case of political hot potato, and next week, New Hampshire lawmakers enter crunch time when it comes to deciding the fate of Medicaid expansion in the Granite State.

Tess Kuenning, executive director, Bi-State Primary Care Association, is rooting for including Medicaid expansion in the state budget. That would extend coverage to more than 50,000 people who need it, she said.

"They will be able to go to primary care and prevention," she said. "They'd be able to access health care providers in specialty and in hospitals, and they'd be able to keep themselves healthy. And that's just the human side."

The House included the Medicaid expansion in its version of the budget, but the State Senate excluded the expansion, so Kuenning said some agreement needs to be reached by the end of next week in order for the expansion plans to survive.

Opponents of the plan have said they are concerned about how much expansion could cost the state.

Doug McNutt, associate state director of advocacy, AARP New Hampshire, said that, over seven years, for every three cents the state invests in the program it would get back 97 cents from Uncle Sam.

"New Hampshire pays a lot of money into federal taxes," he said. "This is an opportunity for New Hampshire to get money into the state: $2.5 billion over seven years."

The way the legislative process works, lawmakers have only about four days next week to make an initial deal, McNutt said.

"The House and the Senate are going to have to come to agreement in what's in the final budget," he said. "It's our hope that they agree on a budget that would have Medicaid expansion in it."

Since the program began in the mid 1960s, the federal government has always fulfilled its obligation for funding the program, he noted.

Gov. Maggie Hassan has warned that New Hampshire would lose more than $300 million next year alone, should lawmakers reject the plan.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH