Wednesday, February 06, 2013

HB271 - Hearing on Bill to Prevent Expanded Medicaid

HB 271: An Act Stating that NH will Not Accept Expanded Medicaid
Sponsors: Rep. William O’Brien and Rep. Timothy Comerford.

Hearing on February 5, 2013, 10 am in Rep’s Hall at the NH State House. 

I confess. I was running a little late, and parking was a problem. By the time I parked in the mansion district and hoofed it to the hearing, I missed most of O’Brien’s testimony.

I did hear him speak of NH’s “addiction” to Medicaid. Where was Obie when Judd Gregg was filling NH’s budget gaps with Mediscam dollars? Oh, the irony! O’Brien thinks that people will stay poor on purpose, to keep Medicaid. And why wouldn’t they? Poverty is SUCH big fun!!

Next was Rep. Comerford, who tells us that Medicaid isn’t very good coverage as it is. Tell that to the folks who have NO coverage, Timothy.

Representative Hunt testified in support of the House minority, in support of the bill. He’s somehow turned getting expanded Medicaid money into a budget cut, and tells us that we should NOT cut the budget now, we should wait until the economy turns around. He also claims that the people who would be eligible for expanded Medicaid would be picked up by the private insurers through the exchanges. Apparently it hasn’t occurred to him that if you are a low wage worker and can’t afford private insurance, the exchange system isn’t going to make a lot of difference.

Meanwhile, O’Brien is standing alone in the back of the room, smiling. Happy to be tying up a committee and hundreds of people.

Sonia Prince of Nashua: “I don’t want this bill to pass because I have compassion.”

Pam Ian (not sure about spelling) from Concord supports the bill because back in the olden days people used to pay for health care out of their own pockets. She blames Medicare and Medicaid for the increase in health care costs. Our choices have been taken away from us by gummint regulations. We need FREEDOM. We should be able to buy plans that are tailor made for our needs.

Mike Lessard from Dover spoke in opposition to the bill. He’s a blue-collar worker who was clearly nervous, but he was pretty great as an advocate for low wage workers and on behalf of his brother who has some disabilities.

Will Thomas of the NH Veterans for Peace pointed out that this would be a good thing for NH veterans. He also said: “We are judged by how we treat the least among us.”

Pam Lessard, a teacher, and Mike’s mom spoke in opposition. She referenced low wage workers and their inability to afford health care. She said, “Health reaches into every aspect of a person’s life.”

Jane Lang testified that at the age of 63 she was left without a job and without health insurance. Last year she was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, and needed surgery right away. She had to apply for Medicaid; a process that she was told would take 3-6 months. She is in favor of expanded Medicaid, so that people will get routine health care, and problems will be diagnosed earlier.

Steve Ahnen, President of NH Hospital Association:
People turn to hospital emergency rooms because they have no place to go. This program will cover a great many of those folks. Uncompensated care is a crisis for NH hospitals, we can’t sustain it.

Barbara, nurse from Derry: Must we in NH continue the race to the bottom?

Ellen Feinberg of the NH Children’s Alliance:
Children of low wage workers can get CHIP or Medicaid, but their parents cannot. Research shows that healthy parents take better care of their children. Early and consistent health screenings benefit children and the people of our state.  

Allison Comeau Nason – triage nurse, night shift:
Sees patients with conditions that have gone on for days or weeks, but sometimes even months and years because of lack of insurance. She spoke of a young mother who was diagnosed with cervical cancer, who didn’t get care because she had to pay the rent. We need to make health care more available to the people of our state.

There were few present in support of this bill, and many who were opposed. It really comes down to this: the compassionate vs. the compassionless. At this hearing, the compassionate were in the majority. 

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