- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A key state Senate committee endorsed the continuation of New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion plan Monday after a debate over how hard the state should fight to include a work requirement for recipients.

The program, which insures roughly 48,000 people, will end this year if lawmakers do not pass the reauthorization bill. Now backed by the Senate Finance Committee, the bill will go before the entire Republican-led chamber on Thursday. It has already passed the House, also controlled by Republicans, and will go to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk if it passes the Senate unchanged later this week.

The reauthorization bill makes several changes to the program, including adding a requirement that says any able-bodied adults must work, volunteer or participate in job training programs for 30 hours per week. The federal government has never approved a work requirement, so the bill includes language saying New Hampshire’s plan can continue even if the requirement is rejected.

GOP Sen. Jeanie Forrester pressed the committee to remove the so-called severability language, arguing the state should put more pressure on the federal government to allow the work requirement. Forrester, who is running for governor, said she is hearing from constituents who are frustrated that people are receiving insurance without having to work.

“I think this is really important for New Hampshire to take a stand on this,” she said. “People want to see this work requirement.”

But several of Forrester’s colleagues, including Republican Senate President Chuck Morse, pushed back against her proposal. Morse helped author the original bill, which uses federal dollars to put low income people on private health insurance plans. He said while he strongly believes in a work requirement, removing the language that lets the program continue without one would put the entire program at risk. He said New Hampshire can continue to fight for a work requirement under a new president.

“Do we want something better? Yes, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Morse said. But of trying to force the federal government’s hand on a work requirement, he added, “we can believe it would pass, but it wouldn’t pass.”


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