Mar 9, 2017 10:45 PM
Many Democrats & Republicans agree: Obamacare replacement plan wrong prescription for NH
CONCORD – In these increasingly partisan times, it takes a lot to get Democrats and Republicans to agree. But when it comes to the plan by U.S. House Republican leadership to repeal and replace the national health care law, there’s plenty of bipartisan opposition in the Granite State.
But New Hampshire Democrats and Republicans oppose the proposal, formally known as the American Health Care Act, for very different reasons.
Let’s start with the obvious: Democrats were going to body slam any plan by House Speaker Paul Ryan and House leadership because it tears down the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which was the signature domestic achievement of President Barack Obama.
New Hampshire’s all-Democratic, all-female, congressional delegation zeroed in on how gutting the current health care law would roll back the Medicaid expansion program, where more than 50,000 Granite Staters obtain their health insurance. And they pointed out that much of the federal funding of the state’s efforts to battle the heroin and opioid epidemic come from Medicaid Expansion.
“This repeal bill would be nothing short of a disaster for healthcare coverage in New Hampshire and a devastating blow to our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen charged.
It was a similar message from Sen. Maggie Hassan.
“Make no mistake, this so-called replacement plan would end Medicaid expansion, which experts have said is the most important tool available to fight the substance use crisis. The House Republican plan also hurts children, seniors and people with disabilities with drastic federal cuts to the traditional Medicaid program. It would force states to either cut services our citizens need or to raise taxes,” Hassan argued.
“Repealing Medicaid expansion would severely hurt the ability of those on the front lines to save lives and turn the tide of this deadly substance abuse epidemic. Substance use treatment providers have been clear that if Medicaid expansion is repealed, they will have to significantly cut back on the help that they can provide to those in need,” Hassan added.
Hassan and her Republican successor in the Corner Office, Gov. Chris Sununu, have sharp disagreements on many policy issues, but they both share deep concerns when it comes to how the new health care plan would affect New Hampshire’s efforts to battle the state’s drug addiction crisis.
Sununu told NH1 News on Wednesday that “we’ve made it very clear that whatever comes out of Congress has to make sure that the needs of the state, specifically in how it deals with the opioid epidemic, are taken very seriously.”
“We have to keep fighting and making sure that whatever the final bill that comes out of Congress allows us some flexibility and is addressing our priorities, opioids being one of them,” he added.
The state’s first GOP governor in a dozen years pointed out that he’s a major advocate of repealing and replacing Obamacare. But when it comes to the replacement plan, Sununu said after an initial review, “we have some concerns. There’s no doubt about it.”
Asked what are those concerns, the governor answered “we need to make sure that the state has flexibility in what we’re going to do, the state has some say in making sure we can design a system that meets the needs of our citizens. There are parts of this bill that don’t necessarily incorporate that.”
Concerns of a lack of flexibility for states like New Hampshire dictate what their own health care plans would look like was also shared by Greg Moore, the state director of Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire.
Moore told NH1 News it’s crucial that whatever law ends up replacing Obamacare, it gives “the power back to the state to make decisions on health care.”
“This proposal does not repeal the 10 essential health benefits, which ripped away the authority for what should and shouldn’t be in a health care plan from the states and handed it to the federal government. Fundamentally keeping those in place means the states aren’t empowered to make decisions about health care policy,” Moore added.
And targeting the tax credits for low and middle income residents pay for their health coverage, which would replace current subsidies, Moore charged that “we’re maintaining an entitlement. Ultimately we believe that the true answer to health care is by bringing more power back to the states and more importantly to the individual citizens to make decisions about their care.”
He described portions of the plan as “half measures to create Obamacare light.”
“We want to see a true repeal and replace,” Moore added.
State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn shared Moore’s distaste for the new proposal, but for very different reasons.
The Democratic lawmaker from the North Country highlighted New Hampshire’s aging population. The Granite State is tied for second oldest population in the nation in terms of median age, according to Census estimates. AARP said this week that the new health care proposals would make insurance costlier for many older Americans.
“Looking at a population that is older and on a fixed income, these changes do have an impact on the health care that’s provided, the insurance policies that are provided,” Woodburn argued. “These quick changes in Washington may cause us great pain in the state of New Hampshire.”
And Woodburn added that “the speed at which they’re doing it should cause concern. Because a little wrinkle in Washington could be a great divide in the north country of state of New Hampshire, where our communities are much more fragile.”