Medicaid expansion is a boon for NH economy

It creates and protects jobs and provides health security to working families

Among the more notable features of a state budget passed by the NH House is the proposed and ill-advised decision to end our state’s unique version of Medicaid expansion, called the NH Health Protection Program (NHHPP).

The NHHPP leverages available federal funds to offer private sector health coverage to lower-income, otherwise uninsured New Hampshire residents.

More than 40,000 New Hampshire residents are already enrolled in the program. They are hard-working Granite Staters who serve meals in restaurants, scan our groceries at the store, sweep and vacuum workplace floors, do home repair, fix our cars, cut our hair and work in a full range of shops in our local communities. They are dedicated folks who teach and care for our kids at child care centers, and who provide in-home services to elders and people with disabilities. They are adults going back to school to get a better education. Also eligible are people who may be laid off, can’t afford to stay on COBRA, and just need coverage until they get back on their feet.

New Hampshire’s Business and Industry Association, hospitals and health care providers, organizations representing patients, and working families across New Hampshire have united in support of continuing this coverage program.

The NHHPP is projected to bring more than $800 million in federal funds into our state’s economy over the upcoming two-year state budget period. The overall economic impact of these reclaimed federal dollars circulating throughout New Hampshire’s economy is a staggering benefit.

The NHHPP also reduces uncompensated care and so helps to end health care cost-shifting. Data from the NH Hospital Association already shows the program causing sizable reductions in uninsured inpatient, outpatient and emergency room visits. This reduction in uncompensated care will help keep health coverage costs in check for everyone.

According to the BIA, another reason business leaders support the NHHPP is that it results in a stronger, healthier, more productive workforce for our state.

Hospital systems are some of New Hampshire’s largest private sector employers and are significant and meaningful economic drivers in our local communities. The NHHPP results in job creation and security in the pivotal health care sector of our state’s economy.

The NHHPP ensures that New Hampshire residents can get check-ups and preventive services, necessary follow-up care, cost-effective treatment of chronic illness and access to what can be life-saving mental health and substance use disorder services. Access to such basic health services is far and away more cost-effective than treating complications after a person’s health condition becomes a crisis.

The program also has no net cost to our state in the upcoming budget period. Thanks in part to a tax paid by insurance companies, the NHHPP brings in state revenues and generates budget savings over the two-year budget cycle that fully offset state expenses associated with the program.

The recommendation to end New Hampshire’s innovative, bipartisan health coverage expansion is unwise and merits reversal in the Senate. Maintaining our state’s commitment to this vital, common-sense health coverage initiative strengthens our economy, creates and protects jobs and provides peace of mind and health security to working families.

Tom Bunnell is a health policy consultant for NH Voices for Health.

Categories: Opinion