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Mar 7, 2016 4:01 PM

Landrigan: Medicaid expansion creates a split among Republicans running for NH governor

CONCORD - Medicaid expansion would dwarf all other issues for the 2016 legislative session if the state was not facing a drug epidemic.

And with a key showdown vote looming in the House of Representatives this week, the issue has created a rift among conservatives in the race for governor.

"It is probably a good step forward," says Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields. "I like the idea we are moving forward without putting any taxpayer burden.’’

He’s the leading Republican candidate for governor, and he’s done an about-face and now supports expanding Medicaid.

But his primary rival, Wilton Republican State Rep. Frank Edelblut, is against it.

"We have not devised a permanent funding mechanism for a program that is designed as a permanent program,’’ Edelblut said.

A prominent conservative admits the big fight this week is not to defeat this bill but to keep in place a mandatory work requirement.

"We’re focused on making the case that at the end of the day this is not a program for working people," says Greg Moore, state executive director with Americans for Prosperity. "This is a program by and large for people who aren’t working.’’

Edelblut said if the House permits the federal government to strike the work mandate than it’s really a bottomless entitlement.

"We are not really legislating anymore; this is really a shopping list, a laundry list of things we would like to put in the Medicaid expansion and then we are delegating that responsibility to CMS to make the decision for us,’’ Edelblut said, referring to the federal Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

What’s the biggest reason conservatives want a work requirement for Medicaid? Because they believe ultimately if you require people to work they won’t get the benefit and the rolls will drop.

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