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A Question Mark for NH Lawmakers on Medicaid Expansion

PHOTO: Head shot of Jeff McLynch
PHOTO: Head shot of Jeff McLynch
July 18, 2012

CONCORD, N.H. - A big question mark hangs over the Granite State: Whether it will exercise the option just affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court to expand Medicaid to cover more people.

A new report provides at least three reasons to support expanding Medicaid in New Hampshire, says Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. The first two, he says, are the increases in federal dollars and the number of people with health coverage in the state.

"Medicaid expansion could mean over $1 billion in federal funds for New Hampshire; and it could mean access to health care for 40,000 to 60,000 New Hampshire residents."

The report from the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities shows that the state could increase coverage by 38 percent while only increasing cost by around 1 percent, McLynch says.

Both GOP candidates for governor oppose the expansion. On the Democratic side, one candidate leans in favor of expanding Medicaid while the other pledges to work with lawmakers on the issue.

The Heritage Foundation, among other groups, estimates the expansion could cost the state as much as $130 million over seven years. McLynch says that's a drop in the bucket compared to the contribution from the federal government. He notes that state and local health-care providers will also pay less for charity care.

"You'd see a drop in cost-shifting to hospitals and private insurers. You would also see a decline in the state's cost for uncompensated care - perhaps as much as $120 [million] to $240 million over the next seven years."

McLynch says his group is investigating the matter further and expects to release a new report in several weeks to get the most accurate picture possible of how many people in New Hampshire would see direct benefits from the proposed Medicaid expansion.

The CBPP report is online at cbpp.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH