After months of negotiations, the New Hampshire Senate voted last week to expand Medicaid to cover as many as 50,000 low-income residents, using tens of millions of dollars in federal aid.
About 12,000 residents who would qualify for coverage would be given subsidies to pay for insurance through their employers. Thousands more would receive subsidies to buy private insurance through the state’s health care exchange.
If the bill becomes law, the state would seek a waiver from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement the modified program. HHS has granted preliminary permission to several other states that sought to implement similar programs rather than expand Medicaid to cover those who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
The proposed legislation expanding Medicaid expires at the end of 2016, when the amount of federal money covering the state’s costs decreases from 100 percent to 90 percent. Senate President Chuck Morse, a Republican, told the Concord Monitor he was unwilling to allow New Hampshire to cover the remaining 10 percent because he didn’t think the state could afford the cost.
In a recent interview, Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, said the political cover that the compromise affords to Republicans was key to getting a deal done.
“What was important to conservatives was that we not permanently expand Medicaid,” Hassan said. “Our goal was to get people covered as quickly as possible.”
Seven Republicans voted with 11 Democrats on Thursday to pass the compromise, 18-5. The measure will be sent back to the state House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats. The House passed a straight expansion of Medicaid last year and is likely to rubber-stamp the Senate compromise.