One of the biggest events last week was the House Finance Committee's hearing on HB 1696, the bill to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP). As you know, the Chamber supports this important legislation.
The issue that seemed to be most on the minds of the members of the Finance Committee was the proposed funding source needed to trigger the Federal match to finance the NHNPP if it's reauthorized. That source is voluntary contributions from hospitals and insurance companies. At question is whether using that would indeed mean a net savings rather than a net increase in the costs of health insurance.
From the testimony at the hearing, it seems pretty clear that the result of ending the NHHPP by not reauthorizing it would be increased upward pressure on health insurance costs.
Steve Ahnen, the President of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, told the Committee that last year, the state's hospitals saw a savings of $142,000,000, the amount of care provided to the nearly 50,000 people covered under the NHHPP whose costs would previously have been unreimbursed. NHHA also argued that the defeat of HB 1696 would not be fiscally responsible, because that would leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table in Washington. Medical are is going to be provided to those 50,000 regardless of the reauthorization and it is going to have to be paid for somehow. Without the federal match, it would end up being paid for through increases in health insurance premiums.
Next week, the House Finance Committee will hold two further work sessions to study the bill, and then the Committee will vote on the recommendation that it is going to make to the full House for the final House vote on the bill. The Chamber is urging all Greater Nashua-area House members to vote in favor of HB 1696, because the bill is an important way of creating a restraint on health insurance cost increases.