By Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester
“Good health and good sense are two of life’s greatest blessings,” according to Roman writer Publilius Syrus. New Hampshire has been fortunate to have a healthy dose of both, especially when it comes to healthcare.
Our state seized the opportunities offered through federal healthcare reforms to make a difference for local residents. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) directly increased access to employer-based and individual health plans and ended discrimination against those with pre-existing medical conditions. However, the final piece of the puzzle, a Medicaid expansion, was left up to us. New Hampshire made the right choice, bringing healthcare coverage to low-income families making up to 138% of the poverty level. That’s just $25,100 for a family of four.
The state implemented the change properly, too. We engaged experienced companies to administer the program. It’s a more efficient solution than growing the government bureaucracy, and it taps innovations in the private sector to improve patient outcomes and increase value.
Thanks to the ACA and the Medicaid expansion, New Hampshire’s uninsured rate was cut in half. And we found out Medicaid really does work as intended. Although about 50,000 people at a time use the program, 130,000 have moved through it. In other words, the majority rely on our safety net just until they can get back on their feet.
Increased healthcare coverage couldn’t have come at a more pivotal moment, as our state battles a crushing opioid epidemic. Medicaid and private health plans are now bringing mental health and addiction recovery services to our communities. What’s more, they’re helping to ensure that people get professional medical help when they need it and aren’t tempted to self-medicate. All parts of our healthcare system, from primary care and pain management to rehabilitation programs, will be essential in the coming years as we turn the tide on opioid abuse and bring hope to families that are hurting.
For these reasons and more, it was incumbent upon New Hampshire’s leaders to once again renew the Medicaid expansion and they did – and with it our tools for improving health and well-being across the state. Hopefully we’ll also have the good sense to apply what we’ve learned to inform an even stronger, more affordable, wider reaching healthcare system modeled on the market-based one we enjoy today.
The opinions expressed here are the writer’s.