Some House budget writers move to punt on Medicaid expansion

May 24—CONCORD — A House Finance Committee working group has recommended tabling legislation for the permanent expansion of Medicaid coverage for low-income adults, days after the full House of Representatives had endorsed it.

Along party lines, the subcommittee voted, 5-4, to recommend the committee retain this bill (SB 263) to do more work on it and have it come back to the House early on in the 2024 session.

All five Republicans backed the move while all four House Democrats were against it.

The full panel will vote on that recommendation June 1.

Rep. Maureen Mooney, R-Merrimack, said there is broad bipartisan support for continuing the program that provides health insurance for adults making from 100%-to-138% of the federal poverty level.

The federal government provides 90% support for these adults; the state pays 50% of costs for traditional Medicaid, which provides health insurance to the poor and disabled.

"The question is the time frame and whether it should be approved with an extension," Mooney said.

Without further action by the Legislature, the program is set to expire on Dec. 31.

Mooney pointed out that the House-passed budget trailer bill (HB 2) already includes a two-year extension for Medicaid expansion and it will be the topic of negotiations between House and Senate budget writers.

Rep. Erica Layon, R-Derry, said it makes sense to hold onto this bill as the Republican-led U.S. House in Washington is promoting a work requirement for those on public assistance programs.

"We have no opportunity to react to any federal changes unless we retain this bill," Layon said.

House had rejected 30 changes

Last week the House rejected 30 amendments House GOP members had offered that included a work requirement, mandatory copayments, and a fixed limit for how long someone could remain on the program.

"This should be a hand up and not a handout that becomes permanent," said Rep. Jim Kofalt, R-Wilton, who supported retaining the bill.

The initial House vote to pass this measure without changes was 193-166.

The Senate backed it 24-0.

On Wednesday, Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro repeated that Medicaid expansion is one of his top priorities.

Bradley has said he could support a long-term extension of the program.

Rep. Jerry Stringham, D-Lincoln, said there is no good reason to oppose permanent expansion of the program, which has been in place since 2014.

"This program has proven its worth. We will always have opportunities to examine Medicaid expansion in the future," Stringham said.

klandrigan@unionleader.com