Nashua Telegraph: Planned Parenthood study urges NH Medicaid expansion, says 38k new women would be covered
By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
CONCORD – If New Hampshire policymakers expand Medicaid, it will deliver government-paid health insurance to 38,000 women, or about 61 percent of the eligible pool, according to a new study that Planned Parenthood of Northern New England unveiled Tuesday.
Newbury landscaper Barbara Marzelli, 50, is one of those who would get coverage after going about 20 years without it – along with her husband, who works in construction.
Marzelli’s children get coverage through the taxpayer-subsidized Healthy Kids Corp. Her father has insurance as a retired veteran and also receives Medicare.
“I am stuck in the middle. Being the caregiver, I hold the family together, but I don’t have the health care needed to keep going,” Marzelli told reporters at a news conference. “If New Hampshire throws this money away, they throw away lives. Do the right thing, the smart thing, the cost-effective thing, the compassionate thing.”
For the fifth time in the past three weeks, health care providers and Democratic activists were trying to keep the pressure on Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, who has led the fight against expanding Medicaid, instead naming a commission to study it.
Jennifer Frizzell is a senior policy adviser with the region’s Planned Parenthood, which operates six clinics that serve 17,000 women a year.
“So here we are again. It’s kind of like ‘Groundhog Day’ – Republican lawmakers playing politics with women’s health – but this time they’re playing politics with our tax dollars too,” Frizzell said. “Our message to the New Hampshire Senate is this: When you reject federal funding for expanding affordable health care, you disproportionately jeopardize the health and lives of New Hampshire women.”
The Planned Parenthood report concludes that 62,000 low-income adults would be able to get coverage if New Hampshire expands Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, up from the current 68 percent.
A private consultant’s report done for the state Department of Health and Human Services had pegged the number at 58,000, though Frizzell noted that the consultant, the Lewin Group, had a range that went up to about 60,000.
Advocates for women advertised how many women in each of the 24 state Senate districts would qualify for coverage.
“In New Hampshire, women are the majority of people living in poverty,” said Marianne Jones, president of the Women’s Fund of New Hampshire.
Dr. Julia Burdick, an internal medicine physician, said women with health care coverage have better outcomes.
“Women with access to health care tend to remain active and productive,” Burdick said. “When people are insured, they don’t wind up getting sick.”
Ashley Pratte, executive director of Cornerstone Action NH, a socially conservative group, said this Medicaid expansion could be a financial boon for Planned Parenthood and could increase the abortion rate in the state.
“If we are going to expand Medicaid, that is money that will go to taxpayer-funded abortions,” Pratte charged. “I don’t think this will be empowering women in any way.”
Planned Parenthood’s Frizzell stressed that her agency gave $4 million in free care to its patients and nearly all of it was for care other than abortion services.
Greg Moore, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said his grass-roots group will continue to reinforce the Senate’s view that the Obama administration can’t be trusted to keep federal aid promises and that expanding Medicaid does not equal better health care.
“We can continue to have the same battle of talking points, but I heard nothing today that would convince the Senate to change its course of demanding answers and doing its due diligence,” Moore said.
Medicaid expansion would pump $2.5 billion in federal payments over the next seven years.
The Affordable Care Act promises that expanded Medicaid will get 100 percent reimbursement for the newly covered group for the first three years and at least 90 percent support through 2020.
The state’s administrative cost for the expansion over that period would be $85 million, according to the Lewin Group study. AFP’s Moore said state costs could be more than twice that much.
Currently, 132,000 in the state are on Medicaid and consist of low-income women and their children, expectant mothers, and poor adults with disabilities.
The state receives 50 percent federal support to give Medicaid insurance to this population, and it’s the single largest item in the state budget.
The Lewin Group concluded that reimbursement for hospitals for those on Medicaid would actually be lower than what hospitals would get paid if the same individuals received private insurance coverage, but the hospital lobby is a strong supporter of expansion.
Frizzell stressed that without Medicaid expansion, those low-income adults below 100 percent of the federal poverty level will get no coverage.
“If Medicaid is not expanded, there is not an opportunity for all of these women,” Frizzell said. “They will be trapped.”