by NH Senator Denise Ricciardi
I ran for the New Hampshire Senate because I wanted to fight for my community, for my state, and most importantly, for hardworking families looking for more opportunities to succeed and live the American Dream. Whether it’s fighting for cleaner drinking water or working to ensure that our children are healthy, the safety and well-being of all Granite Staters is my top priority. I believe it is also our obligation to watch out for New Hampshire taxpayers and ensure that we are constantly working to lower costs, not increasing your financial burden.
Last week, I was very proud to cast my vote in support of SB 263 – extending the New Hampshire Granite Advantage health care program and reestablishing the commission to evaluate the effectiveness and future of the New Hampshire Granite Advantage health care program, commonly known as Medicaid Expansion Reauthorization. This bill is a win-win for people that need assistance and for taxpayers.
I have spent countless hours speaking to experts, reading the fact sheets, listening to the testimony, and most importantly speaking directly with constituents that have been on the Granite Advantage Health Care Program. At the end of these conversations, it was crystal clear to me how life changing this program has been for those that needed it, and a vitally important program to our state’s health care system. It provides health insurance benefits for lower income families whose incomes are below 138% of the federal poverty line ($41,400 for a family of four) that need short term assistance. This program has lowered the costs for those of us with private health insurance, it protects our health care providers’ abilities to provide high quality care, and protects NH taxpayers.
The Granite Advantage Health Care program (New Hampshire’s version of Medicaid Expansion) has been in existence for nearly a decade. It was the result of hard-work and bipartisanship that provided a uniquely New Hampshire program and the results speak for themselves.
Since its inception, Granite Advantage has directly led to a 63% reduction in the number of uninsured patients seeking emergency room care in our state, a 57% reduction in uninsured impatient admission, and a 41% reduction in uninsured outpatient admissions. The cost of uncompensated care attributable to uninsured patients in NH hospitals – which is a hidden tax that gets passed along to those of us with private health insurance – has dropped dramatically from $173 million in 2014 to $69 million in 2021. And a recent study from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation found, we now have the lowest private health insurance rates for the industry benchmark 40 year old non-smoker in the individual insurance market. These are real benefits to hardworking families.
The Granite Advantage Health Care Program is a hand up for those who need short term assistance. It is not a hand out. Typically, those who enroll in this program do so during times of life changes. They may be between jobs, or struggling with addiction. In most cases, these are our neighbors that are looking to get back on their feet and simply need a boost up.
Let me address some of the more frequent questions being asked:
1) Are the taxpayer protections that our Republican leadership fought so hard for in 2014 been removed? Absolutely Not.
Every single taxpayer protection remains in place, including: the work requirement, an automatic sunset provision if the Federal Government breaks its promise to fund 90% of the program, and the ban on State General Funds being used to fund the state portion of the program. All of these taxpayer protections make our Medicaid Expansion program one of the most taxpayer friendly and fiscally responsible of the 39 states that have adopted Medicaid Expansion.
2) Is the Legislature going to be able to make future program changes if Granite Advantage is reauthorized permanently? Absolutely.
Our State Senators and State Representatives can always file legislation and bring a vigorous debate to the public about this program. Moreover, this bill reauthorizes the Oversight Commission, and strengthens it by adding additional legislative members as well as stakeholders to ensure that the program is running the way that it is intended. The Oversight Commission is also required to generate an annual report to the Governor and the NH Legislature to make all the relevant information publicly available to the taxpayers of New Hampshire. The Granite Advantage program is a unique New Hampshire approach. That is why SB-263 passed unanimously through the Senate with full support from both Republicans and Democrats. There is a good reason why nearly 500 Granite Staters stood up to support this bill during the committee hearing. SB 263 is right for New Hampshire and I am proud to support it.