RAYMOND — Part of the Senate version of the budget, which stayed in the final budget version, was the removal of expanded Medicaid, and instead creating a commission to study the advantages and disadvantages of expansion. There are, in my humble opinion, many myths about the value of expanding, including:
Myth - If New Hampshire doesn’t expand Medicaid we will be passing up $2.5B in free federal money. Fact - There is no free federal money, it’s your tax dollars. We already have a $3.8T, (T - as in trillion) federal budget, and nearly $17T in federal debt. Any expansion would just add to both.
Myth - All the other states are doing it. Fact - twenty-six states have took the wait and see approach, studying the issues. Why shouldn’t we also study it first? With budget passed, we will.
Myth - In NH expanded Medicaid, 58K people currently without insurance would be covered. Fact - As I understand it, of that 58K, only 24K are currently uninsured. Thirty-four thousand currently have private health insurance, but would be shifted onto Medicaid at the taxpayers expense. Why?
Myth - Expanding Medicaid does not cost the state anything. Fact - Federal programs always cost the state in the end. In over the next seven years, it is estimated a net cost to the state would be up to $200M. Once federal match drops to 90%, it would cost the state nearly $50M annually.
Medicaid expansion is a very serious matter that truly deserves a full comprehensive study, and a fair straight up or down vote of the full legislature, completely separate from our state budget or any of state business. I was very happy that we are able to keep the creation of this “Medicaid Study Committee” in the budget, to study the costs and benefits, if any, of expanding Medicaid.
The committee will begin its work in the next few weeks, with a tight timeline, as it has to have a full report out by October 15, 2013. I trust the committee members will give it the same scrutiny as any other major piece of legislation, and the report will provide all legislators the needed information to make a truly informed vote on this stand alone issue.
(Editor’s Note: NH State Representative Mike Kappler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)