Week in Review for July 30: Health care debate resonates in NH

Jul 30, 2017

The health care debate in Washington, D.C. this week resonated loudly in the Granite State. And it wasn’t the only national policy issue that reverberated in the state. So did the president’s announcement that he intends to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.

The tempest over health care was centered in the U.S. Senate, where the Republican leadership was desperate to repeal - in some shape or manner - the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Democrats -- including Granite State U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan -- while open to improving Obamacare oppose its repeal. A last-ditched effort for a so-called “skinny repeal” - which would remove the coverage mandate and the medical device tax -- failed in the early morning hours of Thursday due to the no votes of Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and John McCain of Arizona.

A primary concern in New Hampshire is the effect on a repeal of Obamacare or a remaking of health insurance that affects the Medicaid expansion allowed by the Affordable Care Act. More than 50,000 Granite Staters now have health insurance because of that expansion. New Hampshire is one of a handful of states where Republican governors worry how Medicaid expansion will be affected by health care reform efforts in D.C.

Republican Gov. Christopher Sununu said in an NHPR story that governors and state legislatures have to have a say in the health care reform process.

“We've got to provide flexibility, we've got to provide funding, and you've got to provide the ability for governors and legislatures to create efficient systems that will save costs and provide better quality of care in the future,” he said.

Sununu - along with Shaheen, Hassan, and U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter, D-1st Congressional District, and Ann McLane Kuster, D-2nd CD - urged that Republicans and Democrats work together to find a solution. See a Concord Monitor story here.

Meanwhile, state Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny warned Wednesday the state must act soon to avoid a potential collapse of the individual market that would leave 50,000 Granite State residents without health insurance. See a Union Leader story here.

Sununu and the delegation were also critical this week of the move by President Donald Trump, expressed in a Twitter tweet, to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, currently allowed by order of the previous commander in chief, President Barack Obama.

“I think that anyone who is willing to stand up and fight for this country should have the ability to do so,” Sununu said to NHPR.

Also in NH this week

Gov. Sununu announced this week the return of $30 million to towns and cities for road improvements as a result of signing SB 38 that makes an appropriation to the N.H. Department of Transportation for local roads and bridges repair and maintenance. “For years we have heard how the state cannot control local property taxes, but what we can do is use infrastructure grants to give our towns more financial flexibility and target key areas of need to our communities, which will revitalize New Hampshire’s aging infrastructure, and reinvigorate our local economies,” said Sununu.

The New Hampshire ACLU chapter’s lawsuit to prevent the state from handing over voter data to the Election Integrity Commission will get a hearing Aug. 7. The case is one of several in the country challenging the propriety of giving the information to the commission empaneled by Trump to root out alleged voter fraud during the 2016 election. See a Union Leader story here.

Several veterans voiced concerns over treatment and conditions at the Manchester VA Medical Center during a forum this week with the interim director of the facility. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin had removed the hospital’s top two leaders and ordered a top-to-bottom review following a Boston Globe report on a whistleblower complaint filed by physicians. The acting director, Al Montoya, got an earful from vets. See a Concord Monitor story here.

Democrats held onto a seat in the state Senate during a special election this week. Kevin Cavanaugh was elected Tuesday to the District 16 seat held by Scott McGilvray, who died in March. He was a Democrat, and like Cavanaugh, a local labor leader. He downplayed the notion that his win was some kind of anti-Trump harbinger for coming elections. See a Union Leader story here.

Federal, state, and local officials took part in the ceremonial opening this week of the new biotech medical research facility at the Millyard in Manchester. The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute is the work of inventor Dean Kamen. The project is funded with $80 million in Defense Department funding, commitments of $214 million from the private and university sectors. See a WMUR story here.

Enough is enough, said Gov. Sununu, as he pulled the plug this week on a proposed state boat launch on Lake Sunapee. The proposal has been around for 23 years, but has never been developed because of concerns the project was too expensive, too environmentally disruptive and had an unsafe traffic link to Route 103. Sununu wants to start from scratch “to find a better solution to ensure greater public access.” See an NH1 story here.

Do you support a constitutional amendment giving the Legislature complete power over school funding?  Should the Durham post office remove a mural that a state agency says portrays Native Americans offensively? Should New Hampshire require people to attempt retreat (when possible) before using deadly force outside the home? Those are some of the issues being discussed this week on our Facebook page. We invite you to join the conversation.


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