Hospital drops 3,500 poor patients amid state Medicaid cuts

Like hospitals in Dover and Rochester, another New Hampshire hospital group this week announced it is cutting back on care for the poor, reports the Manchester Union Leader. Strained by new state budget cuts to Medicaid, LRGHealthcare in Laconia, N.H., will eliminate care for 3,500 Medicaid patients next month.

After the LRGHealthcare board voted to close a dozen of its primary care offices, LRGHealthcare sent letters notifying the thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries of the change. LRGHealthcare said the move was "in response to unprecedented financial challenges faced by the organization and other hospitals and health care institutions across the state."

The state cut $250 million in Medicaid program funding for New Hampshire's hospitals, reports the Concord Monitor. The health system receives less than half of the cost of providing Medicaid services, LRGHealthcare President Tom Clairmont said in the article.

The controversial move, however, has legislators criticizing the care cuts to its poorest residents.

"It is completely irresponsible for LRGH to deny access to health care to those citizens who can least afford it - and it is contrary to its mission as a nonprofit," Gov. John Lynch (D-N.H.) said in a statement.

Under the pressure of the new state budget, other area hospitals have laid off workers, including Elliot Health System, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, and St. Joseph Hospital.

LRGHealthcare is one of nine hospitals in the area that this summer filed a lawsuit against the state over the lowered reimbursements, arguing that it would force hospitals to deny care to low-income patients in violation of federal law. The New Hampshire state attorney general last month argued back that hospitals do not have right to sue for Medicaid payments.

In addition, Gov. Lynch said that dropping thousands of Medicaid patients should elicit closer scrutiny into LRG's charity care.

"Given LRGH's decision to walk away from a large part of its nonprofit mission, I think it would be appropriate for the attorney general to review whether LRGHealthcare, and its associated primary care practices, still warrant nonprofit status," Lynch said.

For more information:
- read the Concord Monitor article
- read the Union Leader article

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