I would like to thank the New Hampshire State Senate for passage of SB 313, the bill that reauthorizes Medicaid Expansion in New Hampshire.
Five years ago, Medicaid Expansion was a highly controversial, divisive political topic when I served on the Commission to Study the Expansion of Medicaid Eligibility and then as the House representative to the Republican Senate Caucus. Months of education and compromise served as the foundation for the New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP), enacted in 2014. It was a hard-fought win at the time, but I knew it was an important victory for our state.
The NHHPP has exceeded even my expectations over the last two years, and gained bi-partisan support along the way. I presented at the recent reauthorization hearing on Feb. 20, and was deeply moved by the more than four hours of impassioned testimony from people who themselves benefited from the New Hampshire Health Protection Program or worked with NH residents covered by the program. Many of those who testified reported that the program lifted them out of poverty, helping them or their families get healthy and back on their feet. These were stories of a successful program vital to the health of both the participants and our state.
This is what I also see in my medical practice. I see people in recovery from heroin and fentanyl addiction getting rid of the last vestige of their addiction, hepatitis C, and facing life with the optimism of a clean slate. I saw a woman lifted from the despair of losing her job, home and family due to an inherited illness finally rebuilding her life with new hope. I saw patients with inflammatory bowel disease previously dependent on expensive ER visits finally achieve remission and require only an office visit twice a year.
It is no surprise that the first benefit of providing health coverage, as shown by studies of the Oregon Medicaid program, is a powerful impact on mental illness and financial security. What follows is the benefit of physical health, since we know that lack of insurance coverage is associated with delayed diagnosis and a resulting 40 percent higher mortality rate than those who are covered.
Reauthorizing Medicaid Expansion gained broad bi-partisan support this time around because most Senators now fully recognized the wisdom and value of providing healthcare to those in need.
Illness is not an optional expense. People dont just stop getting sick because they cant afford to care for themselves. SB 133 shows we now understand that it is both in our best moral and fiscal interests to provide the highest level of care as efficiently as possible.
So please join me in thanking the Senators who voted in favor of this bill. On both sides of the aisle, they are leaders acting responsibly to address the health, both physical and fiscal, of our state.
For the sake of patients covered by Medicaid Expansion, who are most likely our neighbors, friends and family members, lets now do everything we can to be sure that the House of Representatives shows that same leadership, passing SB 313, and sending it to Governor Sununu for his signature.
Dr. Tom Sherman formerly represented Rye and New Castle in the New Hampshire House.