On Thursday, the House of Representatives and the Senate each met, at the call of the Governor, to begin a special legislative session to consider the recommendations of the Commission to Study the Expansion of Medicaid Eligibility. What transpired after those meetings was of greater interest, though, as Senate Republicans and House Democrats outlined in separate press conferences their proposals for accepting federal funds to extend affordable health care coverage to thousands of low-income Granite Staters.
Importantly, while the specifics of the two proposals may still differ substantially, they do share several major elements. Both proposals would enable New Hampshire to accept the millions of dollars in federal funds available to states under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in order to offer health care coverage to individuals making less than roughly $15,800 per year. Both proposals would use those funds, albeit to differing degrees, to help eligible individuals purchase health insurance through their employers, when possible, or via the exchanges created under the ACA. Both would also seem to rely the state’s existing Medicaid program and the private managed care companies with which it contracts to provide coverage to some individuals, though the scope and duration of such coverage remains unclear.
Likewise, the backers of the competing proposals appear to be motivated by some of the same goals. Senator Jeb Bradley, in sketching out the Senate’s plan, emphasized a desire to expand access for low-income individuals and to improve health outcomes. House Speaker Terie Norelli and Representative Tom Sherman articulated similar aims during their time at the podium as well.
Of course, many details remain to be seen and key differences will have to be resolved. While House Democrats have filed legislation (summarized here) to put their proposal into effect, a bill from the Senate Republicans has not yet been released. Disputes over the timeline for securing needed waivers from the federal government to institute certain reforms, as well as period over which New Hampshire would accept federal funds, will have to be settled in order for any such measure to pass.
Nevertheless, members from both parties and from both chambers appear committed to finding a feasible, practical, and cost-effective solution that is tailored to New Hampshire and that ensures that low-income Granite Staters have access to affordable health care. That is a big first step in bringing the special session to a successful close.