House Bill Threatens State’s $1.4B Medicaid Program

New Hampshire’s $1.4 billion Medicaid program could be jeopardized, writes Norma Love, by proposed legislation that would prohibit the use of public funds going to any health care provider who performs elective abortions.

House Bill 228, which the House passed in January with a 207-147 vote, originally targeted Planned Parenthood but was subsequently expanded to include any hospital, clinic or doctor regardless of whether public funds are used to pay for the abortion services.

If the bill becomes law, the federal government could potentially shut down the state’s Medicaid program for lack of compliance with its rules. That action would leave the state on the hook for the federal government’s half of the annual $1.4 Medicaid budget.

"States are required, for example to exclude providers that commit fraud or certain criminal acts. States are not, however permitted to exclude providers from the program solely on the basis of the range of medical services they provide," wrote CMS director Cindy Mann.

Lisabritt Solsky, New Hampshire’s deputy Medicaid director, said the bill could violate a federal provision that allows Medicaid recipients to receive services from any willing provider….

"State Medicaid programs are required to assure Medicaid members have the same access to medical services as those that have commercial coverage," Solsky said.

House Speaker Bill O’Brien pooh-poohed the risk as a “hypothetical horrible” and said he doesn’t trust the guidance provided by the Obama administration.

"Sometimes when you allow conscience objection or religious freedom to have a play in individual’s decisions then the temptation is always to draw out what I call the hypothetical horribles and say, ‘What if this, what if that,’ but those hypothetical horribles really don’t show up," O’Brien said.

H.B. 228 now moves to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee where it will receive a public hearing this spring.