Former Massachusetts senator and current New Hampshire Republican Senate hopeful Scott Brown refused to give a straight answer on whether or not he supports the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid provisions, on the same day that Granite State legislators gave final approval to an expansion alternative that’s already proven successful in states such as Arkansas.
Obamacare gives states the option to accept generous federal funding to expand Medicaid eligibility for their poorest residents who earn up to 1.38 times the poverty level. By law, the federal government must pay the full cost of expansion for the first three years and at least 90 percent of the cost in the following years. The politically divided New Hampshire legislature passed a so-called “private option” alternative to Medicaid expansion on Tuesday afternoon that will provide more than 62,000 low-income residents with robust federal subsidies to buy private plans through the state’s Obamacare marketplace — a measure that Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is expected to sign promptly.
But Scott was still ambivalent about Medicaid expansion during an event in Rochester, New Hampshire on Tuesday. The Washington Examiner’s Rebecca Berg tweeted that when Brown was asked what he thinks about Medicaid expansion, he equivocated in his response. The candidate said that both he and New Hampshire residents support a “safety net,” but that legislatures should be weary of Medicaid expansion’s future costs since the Obama administration may renege on its funding promises:
BROWN: I believe there needs to be a safety net for people. That’s what [New Hampshire legislators] are wrestling with. But here is the challenge — as I am speaking to legislators and people around the state, they are very, very concerned about the promises that have been made by this administration. Not only by President Obama, but by Senator [Jeanne] Shaheen saying that you can keep your health care, you can keep your doctors, it’s not going to cost you any more. And they misled the people.
So I have told people, and I would tell not only this legislature, but every legislature throughout the country, be very, very careful about the promises that the president and this administration are making when it comes to funding. Their concerns are, what happens at the end of three years? Is it then going to be an unfunded federal mandate, that the citizens of New Hampshire will have a whole new program that they didn’t really want — they want to be compassionate, but they really didn’t want this plan — and how are they going to pay for it? That’s what they are wrestling with. So I would encourage the legislature to be very, very wary of the trail of broken promises by this administration on this issue.
That’s far from the definitive answer on Medicaid expansion that some reporters have been hoping to get from Brown, who has branded himself as an ardent ACA opponent and voted to repeal the health law on three separate occasions while serving in Congress.
Obamacare may actually wind up being a political thorn in Brown’s side as he tries to make his way back into the U.S. Senate. While New Hampshire Republicans overwhelmingly disapprove of the ACA, thousands of locals — including several Republican state legislators — have insurance for the first time, or are saving significant amounts of money, thanks to the health law. Almost 22,000 state residents enrolled in private Obamacare plans between October 1 and March 1, and the newly-passed private option Medicaid expansion could insure another 62,000 poor people in New Hampshire.