Medicaid expansion is right for New Hampshire

AARP New Hampshire, along with other prominent groups from all sectors of New Hampshire’s economy, supports Senate Bill 313, which continues Medicaid expansion for five years.

There is good reason to see the Granite Advantage Health Care Program passed — It is good for people and good for New Hampshire’s economy.

The benefits of a healthier workforce and healthier population are many. More pronounced are the positive health impacts on the thousands of New Hampshire’s 50+ population who will be healthier and more productive at perhaps the most critical and busiest time of their lives.

Because health insurance is “age-rated,” an older person may have to pay as much as three times the premium of a younger person. This rating increase makes it difficult (if not impossible) for people in this age group to afford health insurance at a time when they most need to be healthy.

Providing coverage offers various direct health benefits of being healthy. The indirect benefits touch all of us in important, but less obvious, ways. In other words, if more than 50,000 get directly benefited through health coverage, many more people receive indirect benefits as a result of being healthier parents, sons, daughters and employees.

The numbers are not insignificant. According to a demographic profile of the NH Health Protection Program prepared by the NH Department of Health and Human Services, 53,357 people were enrolled in the program as of Feb. 1. Among those, 32 percent were above the age of 45, 17 percent were between 45 and 54 years old and 15 percent were over the age of 54. That’s more than 17,000 people.

Age rating and other factors can make obtaining health insurance cost-prohibitive for older people of lower income. So they either go without care or receive care in emergency rooms. With expanded Medicaid, previously uninsured Granite Staters now have health coverage needed to be seen by a primary care doctor, the ability to obtain primary and preventive care, cost-effective management of chronic conditions and life-saving mental health and substance abuse treatment. All of which keeps them out of costly emergency rooms.

We need to celebrate, support and care for our older residents. Continuing this program is one critical way to do that. It is humane, sensible and cost-effective. AARP New Hampshire strongly encourages passage of SB 313 so it can be signed into law.

This is why AARP New Hampshire joins institutions like the Business and Industry Association, NH Hospital Association, NH Medical Society and leaders from both sides of the aisle in urging swift passage of this bill. Medicaid expansion deserves to be reauthorized for another five years. It is sensible, cost-effective, humane, and the right thing for New Hampshire.

Todd Fahey is state director of AARP New Hampshire.

Categories: Opinion