CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — After a week's break, New Hampshire's Legislature returned to work Monday with a March 27 deadline to act on hundreds of bills, including key measures to expand Medicaid coverage to 50,000 poor adults, an increase in the gas tax, casino gambling and a repeal of the death penalty.
The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on its plan to finance private insurance with federal Medicaid funds. The bill is expected to pass the Republican-controlled chamber and has a good chance of passing the Democratic-controlled House by early April. New Hampshire is one of six states that have not decided whether to expand Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul law. Currently, 25 states plus the District of Columbia are expanding and 19 states are not.
Estimates vary of the number of adults who would sign up for coverage. The state believes about 50,000 will enroll while a 2012 study from the Lewin Group predicted that 58,000 would enroll.
The proposal hinges on New Hampshire winning federal approval to use Medicaid funding to buy private coverage. Under the proposal, the state would seek a federal waiver by March 31, 2015. If the federal government doesn't approve a waiver by then, the expansion would end and the 38,000 adults would lose coverage.
Critics have argued the state should get any necessary waivers before enrolling the adults. They believe that once taxpayer subsidized coverage is provided, lawmakers will lack the courage to end it.
An increase in the state's gas tax has been knocking around for years. Senate Transportation Chairman Jim Rausch's bill proposes calculating increases using the Consumer Price Index. His first calculation would be based on the difference in CPI from 2003 to 2013. Later increases would be every four years and Rausch estimates they would average a penny.