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Health Care

The following community commentary ran in Fosters Daily Democrat on July 29, 2012:

We visited Strafford County’s Riverside Rest Home to mark Medicare’s 47th birthday on July 27, 2012. The people of Strafford County take great pride in knowing our senior citizens receive compassionate and professional care at Riverside rest home. As Senate candidates, we strongly oppose a Republican plan for a state legislative takeover of Medicare. This plan would threaten health care for seniors, people with disabilities, and children now covered by Medicare. 

Republican gubernatorial candidates Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith both support a plan called the Interstate Health Compact, a version of which passed the House last year (House Bill 1560), calling on the federal government to let the state legislature run Medicare. This proposal dovetails with a national Republican plan, supported by Mitt Romney, which would turn Medicare into a voucher program, increase the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and increase health care costs for seniors by more than $6,400. The last state legislative session made deep cuts in nursing home funding and health care for people with disabilities and children. Now New Hampshire Republican legislators now want to do the same to Medicare.

The Republican plan in Congress needs 40 states to pass the Interstate Health Care Compact so that Congress can act to dismantle Medicare. This is why we will fight as state senators to protect Medicare in New Hampshire by defeating this reckless plan supported by Speaker O’Brien.

The Interstate Health Care Compact is part of an effort to undermine the national commitment to health care reform by sending care back to the states, creating a patchwork of plans that would leave seniors at the mercy of legislative funding cuts. The state would have the authority to eliminate federal regulations that ensure coverage for procedures, medicine, and nursing home care. New Hampshire would receive a Medicaid block grant, instead of being a 50-50 split of costs, and turn Medicare into a block grant, equivalent to what was received in 2010, adjusted for inflation and other costs.

This is a terrible plan for New Hampshire seniors. With the aging of New Hampshire, and population growth, the block grant might not keep up with costs. Under the current plan, when there is an economic downturn, federal assistance increases because caseloads increase, but New Hampshire might not be eligible. The state legislature could decide to raise the age of eligibility or decide not to cover needed services. And the costs of management would fall on the state. The state reimbursement rate for care at the Riverside Rest Home is already too low, downshifting costs to the local taxpayer. A Medicare voucher system could put a huge new tax burden on Strafford County.

Medicare is part of our community values, since it ensures that seniors who have paid into Medicare all their working lives will have the basic human dignity of healthcare when retired. The Republican program ends that guarantee and breaks a promise of each generation to respect and value its elders. Workers would still pay the federal Medicare insurance, but under House Bill 1560, there is no requirement for insurance at age 65, just the shaky promises of a legislature like the one lead by Speaker O’Brien.

This is a personal as well as a political issue for us as senate candidates. David’s grandmother, after a heart attack and a stroke, spent the last months of her life in the Rockingham County Nursing Home. She received loving care and new treatments for stroke recovery, and no one had to worry whether her voucher would cover her care. Rich fills prescriptions every day for seniors on Medicare who can get needed medications without worrying whether the legislature might decide not to cover their needs.

As reported in the Concord Monitor, the Chair of the State Committee on Aging says the Interstate Health Care Compact “would have a major and potentially destructive impact on health care for seniors.” We agree. In this election, we will not abandon the state’s commitment to seniors, and we will fight to protecting Medicare. 

Rep. David Watters
Senate Candidate District 4

Richard Leonard
Senate Candidate District 6