A single mother who works part time while attending college and caring for her ill father urged state senators on Tuesday to continue New Hampshire’s expanded Medicaid program, saying it has allowed her to set a strong and healthy example for her three girls.
Carrie Martin Duran, of Wolfeboro, spoke at a public hearing on a plan to continue the program, set to expire if lawmakers don’t reauthorize it by December.
“I am on my own, taking care of my kids and taking care of my dad,” she said. “I’m on my own, and I have to stay healthy. It’s my foundation. It’s my rock. I don’t have a partner through this, but the state of New Hampshire and Medicaid is my partner.”
The program has put about 50,000 low-income people on private insurance and relies on voluntary contributions from insurance companies and hospitals to cover some of the state’s costs, a funding mechanism the federal government has rejected.
A bill proposed by Senate Republicans would continue the program for five years but change its structure to a managed care model to save money and encourage wellness, impose new work requirements on enrollees and use 5 percent of liquor revenues to cover the state’s cost as federal funding decreases. The state would seek other federal money to continue the services that money currently funds.
Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, called it “a good compromise.”
“People are gonna need to stretch a little bit to get to yes, because that’s what compromise is all about,” Bradley said. “It’s something that helps the 50,000 people, helps the providers, helps the employers in the state through a healthier workforce … it’s just good for the state of New Hampshire.”
Those who spoke at the hearing were overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the program, though some raised concerns about the work requirements, including a provision that a single parent is subject to the requirements once a child reaches age 6.
“The idea that a 7-year-old can be left alone unsupervised for up to 25 hours a week all summer long when school is out or in the evenings or on weekends when the parent is working is not who we want to be as a state,” said Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua. “Kids are going get hurt, they’re going to get in trouble, and child welfare is going to be involved.”
Dr. Gary Woods, a retired surgeon representing the New Hampshire Medical Society, argued that the work requirement is punitive because rather than helping someone get more care it provides a mechanism to delete people from the rolls. He rejected the argument that getting people to work will make them healthier.
“You get someone healthy, and then they can work, that’s how it really works,” he said.
Several hours into the hearing, the only opponent was the group Americans for Prosperity. Greg Moore, state director for the conservative group, said the program has failed to stabilize the individual market, failed taxpayers and failed to move participants toward self-sufficiency. He also said the work requirement proposal includes too many exemptions.