N.H. Bill Could Threaten State Medicaid Program

March 6, 2012 — A New Hampshire bill that would bar organizations that offer abortion services from entering government contracts threatens to jeopardize the state's Medicaid program if enacted, the AP/Boston Globe reports. The bill passed the state House in January.

A spokesperson for Gov. John Lynch (D) said he would veto the bill if it reaches his desk in its current form. However, Republicans in the Legislature have enough votes to override his veto if they vote together.

The bill originally targeted Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, but it was broadened to apply to any health care provider. State Rep. Warren Groen (R), one of the bill's primary sponsors, said the intent of the measure is to force hospitals and other health care providers to separate their abortion-related operations from their other services. The bill would not apply to abortion services covered by Medicaid, which covers the procedure in cases of rape, incest or to save a woman's life.

Lisabritt Solsky, New Hampshire's deputy Medicaid director, said the bill could violate a federal rule that permits Medicaid beneficiaries to receive care from any willing provider. "State Medicaid programs are required to [ensure] Medicaid members have the same access to medical services as those that have commercial coverage," Solsky said. The measure would potentially affect every hospital in the state except for one Catholic facility, she said.

In response to similar legislation in other states, CMS last year warned states against excluding medical providers from Medicaid. "States are not ... permitted to exclude providers from the program solely on the basis of the range of medical services they provide," Cindy Mann, CMS director, wrote in a bulletin.

According to the AP/Globe, if the federal government cut funding to New Hampshire's Medicaid program because it violated the rules, the state would lose half of the program's $1.4 billion budget (Love, AP/Boston Globe, 3/4).