NH Senate reaches deal on Medicaid expansion

Until now, New Hampshire was one of two dozen states and one of the few in the Northeast, that had yet to decide whether to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. But lawmakers in the Granite State appear closer to an agreement.

A bipartisan group of state senators announced they have reached a deal to expand Medicaid eligibility to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the Concord Union-Leader.

The hybrid plan would use private insurance to provide some coverage, purchased through a combination of an existing plan that subsidizes employer-based insurance and policies from New Hampshire's health insurance exchange, the Associated Press reported.

''At the end of the day, this is about expanding coverage for tens of thousands of mostly working, low-income citizens, supporting our providers, helping our state budget, and helping our economy. Our bill will do all of these things,'' Sen. Sylvia Larsen, leader of the Democratic caucus, told the Associated Press.

The plan is also contingent on 100 percent funding from the federal government. That will remain in effect until the end of 2016, at which point federal funding drops to 90 percent. The legislature would then have to reach a new deal to extend coverage.

Arkansas and Iowa are among the states that are using a private sector hybrid plan to expand Medicaid coverage, an option that New Hampshire political leaders explored for months. Like New Hampshire, conservative lawmakers in those statehouses hold significant power, which means a compromise is necessary to expand coverage. Twenty-four other states, most with Republican governors and legislatures, have refused to expand Medicaid so far, although a few continue to debate the issue.

New Hampshire needs to obtain three separate waivers from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in order to move the agreement  forward, according to the Concord Monitor.

Lawmakers plan to draft the bill in the next couple of weeks and vote on it sometime next month, the Associated Press reported.

To learn more:
- read the Concord Monitor article
- here's the Associated Press article