- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Medical copayments will increase on Jan. 1 for people on the state’s Medicaid expansion plan with incomes higher than twice the federal poverty line, which is roughly $12,000 for an individual.

The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee approved the change Friday. Roughly 13,000 of the 44,000 people on Medicaid expansion will be affected by the copay increases. An additional 5,500 people on traditional Medicaid who earn double the poverty line will be subject to the higher copays.

State health officials said the increases are due to actuarial changes. New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion plan relies on using federal dollars to put low-income people on private health insurance plans.

The change puts maximum copays at $588 per year. Some copays will see higher increases than others. Inpatient hospital services, including visits for behavioral health and substance abuse, will now cost $125. Imaging services such as MRIs, by contrast, will increase to $35.

Democratic Rep. Mary Jane Wallner of Concord expressed concern that higher copays for substance abuse services could be a barrier to treatment. State officials predict drug overdose deaths will top 400 in New Hampshire this year.

“It feels like this is what we’ve been talking about for the last month or two here, how important it is that we get people in and get them the treatment they need,” Wallner said.

Jeff Meyers, assistant commissioner in the state’s health department, said doctors and hospitals must provide services regardless of whether someone can afford the copays.

“If they show up and they’re admitted, they can’t be denied services for a lack of copay,” Meyers said. “Whether it is a barrier to someone even thinking about accessing services is a separate question and a valid question.”

Under state law, the state’s Medicaid expansion plan will sunset at the end of 2016 if lawmakers don’t vote to reauthorize it in the upcoming session. The debate is poised to take center stage when lawmakers return in January.

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