Hassan on health care coverage in New Hampshire - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Hassan on health care coverage in New Hampshire

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LEBANON, N.H. -

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan worked the lunch crowd with the Greater Lebanon Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. On the menu-- her desire to expand Medicaid coverage to about 49,000 low-income Granite Staters.

"What Medicaid expansion would allow us to do is to get people who otherwise won't be able to afford the exchange health care coverage right away," said Hassan, D-New Hampshire.

The Democrat says that while both sides have made compromises, there is still no agreement in Concord and the clock is ticking.

"For every day we delay past January first on Medicaid expansion, the state of New Hampshire loses at least a half a million dollars a day," Hassan said.

And that's just the beginning. According to a study commission by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Medicaid expansion would pump an estimated $2.5 billion federal dollars into New Hampshire's economy over the first seven years.

There are two key sticking points. Republicans want a private option on the table and a clear timetable for implementing it. But lawmakers say both plans have the same goal-- to reduce skyrocketing health care costs that are quickly becoming unsustainable.

"Make sure there are more people in the pool, that people are insured, that hospitals are getting paid for the services that they are providing and that there is downward pressure on our premiums," said Sen. David Pierce, D-Etna.

Higher premiums are plaguing towns right across the river in Vermont.

"Unsustainable, unimaginable," said Ken Parker, a selectman in Hartford.

In nearby Hartford, municipal employees are looking at a possible 50 percent increase in premiums. About 65 town employees would be affected.

Parker is a selectman and a certified insurance broker.

Reporter Adam Sullivan: How do you fix the problem?

Ken Parker: You know, that is a good question. If we could answer the question of how we fix it, we would save ourselves a lot of money and a lot of aggravation.

One option would be to drop coverage all together and let employees get their own insurance on Vermont Health Connect. But its rollout-- like the national exchange-- is also a source of frustration. However, Parker, who calls the current situation a crisis, says progress is being made. And the result-- at least for his business-- is lower prices.

"My own agency here, a single employee last year was somewhere in the vicinity of $825, and this year, comparable coverage is about $490," Parker said.

Ultimately no matter where you live, it comes down to affordability and getting workers without coverage covered.

"They are our retail clerks, our teaching assistants in our schools, our construction and restaurant workers," Hassan said.

A special session has been planned for Thursday in Concord for lawmakers in New Hampshire to vote on Medicaid expansion. Hassan says that while she's optimistic a deal can be reached, she won't sign a bad deal.

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