Speaker change could imperil Medicaid expansion

In 2018, the New Hampshire Legislature will be tasked with reauthorizing our states Medicaid expansion. This program, which was adopted in 2014 and reauthorized in 2016, provides quality insurance to over 50,000 Granite Staters. The expansion is wildly popular, uses no state funds, and is a vital tool in our fight against the opioid epidemic.

With current Speaker of the House Shawn Jaspers decision to accept Gov. Sununus nomination for agriculture commissioner, there is a danger that the new speaker of the House will be someone who will actively work to end this program.

So far eight Republican state representatives have announced their candidacy and the vast majority of them oppose the Medicaid Expansion. Despite the evidence of the programs success, six of the eight candidates voted against the reauthorization in 2016. These candidates represent a dangerous sect of the Republican Party, indifferent to the tens of thousands who would be harmed by their votes.

When the expansion is up for reauthorization next year, New Hampshire needs a leader who will work to help our most vulnerable citizens. It will be up to the speaker and Gov. Sununu to get the votes necessary to continue to provide 50,000 Granite Staters with the health care on which they have come to rely. To do anything else would be a failure of leadership.

Unfortunately, the candidates for speaker arent the only ones with spotted records on Medicaid. Gov. Sununu has continually wavered on this issue. At one point, he expressed his support for the program, saying it has yielded great results. Yet just this summer, he supported turning Medicaid into block grants and even helped draft the failed Graham-Cassidy health care bill that would have made huge cuts to Medicaid.

For months, Chris Sununu has tried to maintain the support of moderate voters with his progressive thinking while simultaneously supporting Trump and his radical agenda. With the speaker election looming, he can no longer advocate for Medicaid cuts one day and claim the program is great the next.

Gov. Sununu has yet to comment on the speaker race but if he cares about the people of New Hampshire he needs to signal to those running and to the rest of his party that this program is effective, useful, inexpensive, and must be preserved

Democrat Terie Norelli of Portsmouth is a former Speaker of the N.H. House and lifelong advocate for women’s access to the full range of health care. She can be reached at terinorelli@gmail.com.

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