By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — Senators are concerned the House may not be willing to approve an extended reauthorization of the state’s Medicaid expansion program.
Senate Bill 263 would permanently extend the Granite Advantage Health Care program and passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
The program provides Medicaid services for the “working poor” who make too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford their own health insurance.
At the Senate Finance Committee meeting Friday, Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, the prime sponsor of the bill, said he believed he had an agreement with House Speaker Sherman Packard to extend the program for eight years, which will allow for a new contract with program administrators to extend for five years beginning next year, which would be much less expensive than a one- or two-year agreement.
Some members of the House Finance Committee wanted only a two-year extension of the program which is part of the Affordable Care Act passed during the Obama administration.
Under the program the federal government pays 90 percent of the cost and states that participate pay the other 10 percent.
Bradley said the Speaker told him some in the House are advocating for a two-year extension and wondered if something less than a permanent extension would be possible.
Bradley said he talked to Republicans and Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, discussed it with Democrats, and noted there is a rational basis for an eight-year extension, with the administrative contracts ending next year and the Department of Health and Human Services going out to bid for new contracts beginning the following year.
He said Henry Lipman, the head of the state’s Medicaid program, told the program’s oversight committee recently that anything less than a five-year contract would drive up costs between 10 and 15 percent.
Bradley said after talking with Rosenwald they agreed on an eight-year extension if there is a clear path for the bill to pass the House.
Unfortunately, he said, that has not materialized with the House voting on the bill Thursday, and it is coming out of the Health and Humans Services Committee without a recommendation because the members split 10-10.
And Bradley said the only amendment in the House calendar is a two-year extension.
“That will only drive up costs and is not consistent with what the Speaker offered at eight years,” Bradley said “so we are
going to have to respond.”
He said there are several vehicles the Senate could use but he did not want to say what it could be now.
“I’m a little concerned,” he said.” We have a very strong bipartisan Senate position.”
He said the program works, uncompensated care for hospitals is down, the cost of insurance on the individual market is down, and it helps get people back in the workforce, and noted the business community supports the program and wants to make it permanent.
If the House votes to kill the bill or extend the program for only two years, the Senate could put the contents of SB 263 on another bill, hold a bill the House wants badly or put it in House Bill 2 as part of the operating budget package.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.