- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Emergency rooms are seeing fewer uninsured patients since the state expanded its Medicaid program to cover more poor adults, according to the New Hampshire Hospital Association.

The plan passed by the Legislature last year made adults making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit - about $15,856 a year - eligible for Medicaid, and more than 35,000 have signed up since enrollment began July 1.

According to a report released by the hospital association on Tuesday, the number of emergency room patients without insurance dropped 17 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year while the total number of patients remained steady. The number of uninsured patients who were admitted to hospitals also dropped 16 percent during that time.

The association’s president, Steve Ahnen, said those numbers show that the expansion is working by reducing the costs that businesses and those with insurance pay to care for the uninsured. New Hampshire hospitals provided more than $425 million in such uncompensated care in 2013.

The state expects to receive a federal waiver this month to allow the use of federal Medicaid funds to buy private health coverage under the expanded program. The program is projected to cost $340 million a year when fully implemented and would use 100 percent federal funding through 2017. Coverage will end if federal funding drops below 100 percent and ends regardless at the end of 2016 if the Legislature doesn’t reauthorize it.

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