On Tuesday, the House HHS Committee voted by the decisive margin of 17 - 1 to recommend the passage of HB 1696, the legislation to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. The bill will be on the House floor this coming Wednesday.
The Chamber supports this legislation. As we have told Greater Nashua-area legislators, this bill is an important step toward trying to stem rising health insurance costs (and if the cost of energy is issue #1 for our members, the costs of health insurance are not far behind). By getting private health insurance into the hands of almost 50,000 people who previously had been receiving health care through visits to hospital ERs, the NHHPP has made a sizeable dent in the amount of uncompensated care that must be provided by hospitals. In turn, that reduction in uncompensated care has reduced the pressure to shift those costs to private health insurers (and ultimately to all of us who pay for that insurance). So even aside from the other benefits that flow from the reauthorization of the Health Protection Program (which are by no means insignificant - for instance, these 50,000 people now have access to substance abuse treatment benefits), the reauthorization is a big deal for New Hampshire businesses.
We know that there are a number of legislators out there who oppose this bill. But we have not seen anyone come forward with a proposal that will reduce uncompensated care, provide the additional benefits that come from this program, and not leave on the table in Washington some hundreds of millions of dollars that we sent to Washington through our taxes.
As is the case with the energy-related bills, there are many factors driving the high costs that New Hampshire businesses need to pay for things like energy and healthcare, and many of those factors are beyond the control of New Hampshire legislators and citizens. This is why it is so essential that the legislature seize on any opportunity that is within its power to reduce those costs. Because HB 1696 is one such important opportunity, we hope that all of our area legislators will support New Hampshire businesses and vote in favor of HB 1696.