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After Billions of $$$ to Stockholders, UnitedHealth Claims Poverty Due To Obamacare

By LaurMG, used by CreativeCommons license via Wikimedia Commons

By LaurMG, used by CreativeCommons license via Wikimedia Commons


Yesterday’s 24/7WallSt article about UnitedHealth said that an “earnings warning” issued by the corporation “could be a serious blow to at least part of ACA/Obamacare.”

UnitedHealth’s latest advice to investors is that the corporation now expects slightly lower 2015 profits.  (Can’t help noticing: that recalculation includes a write-off of “$275 million related to the advance recognition of 2016 losses.” Nevermind that we haven’t actually gotten to 2016 yet; UnitedHealth is already calculating losses.)

Apparently, that press release was worth the headline “UnitedHealth Warning Creates Huge Spillover, With Big Implications Ahead.”

Just a month ago, 27/7WallSt was writing happier news about UnitedHealth. Quarterly earnings per share were better than expected, and better than 2014. Premiums were up 9.87% over last year. The company was adding about 100,000 new subscribers a month (1.7 million new people a year). And for the first three quarters of 2015, things were so rosy that UnitedHealth spent $1.1 billion buying back its own stock.

Plus, UnitedHealth paid out another $1.3 billion to shareholders in dividends, just in the first three quarters of 2015.

So… $2.4 billion paid out to shareholders in the first nine months of this yearand now suddenly there’s supposed to be some sort of crisis?  Wow.

Back to 24/7WallSt: “What has been interesting to see here is that UnitedHealth actually has seen its shares soar under ACA/Obamacare.”  Yes, that’s what happened.  The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.  Here’s what UnitedHealth’s stock price history looks like:UNH stock chart

Looks like UnitedHealth’s profits are up since Obamacare, too.  Here’s what their quarterly earnings-per-share history looks like:UNH EPS chartAm I the only one having a hard time seeing how this is a problem for UnitedHealth?

Back to 24/7WallSt. The headline from last month’s article: Are UnitedHealth Earnings Enough for Investors?

Hmmn.  Is investor greed the real crisis for Obamacare?

— — — —

insuranceYep, there’s more.

As of yesterday, the corporation’s new profit expectations “reflect a continuing deterioration in individual exchange-compliant product performance.”  Yep, they’re talking about policies sold to individuals through ACA exchanges, which apparently are not “performing” very well.  From the press release: “UnitedHealthcare has pulled back on its marketing efforts for individual exchange products in 2016. The Company is evaluating the viability of the insurance exchange product segment and will determine during the first half of 2016 to what extent it can continue to serve the public exchange markets in 2017.”

In other words: individual policies aren’t “performing” very well, from the corporation’s perspective.  So UnitedHealthcare may stop selling them.

UnitedHealth is currently the largest health insurance provider in America. Other large health insurance providers – Anthem and Cigna, Humana and Aetna – have plans to merge, which “could shrink the number of major companies in the health insurance industry from five to just three. And that could mean fewer options and higher rates for consumers and the employers that provide health insurance.”

And according to yesterday’s 24/7WallSt article, UnitedHealth’s (newest) earnings forecast “could be used by the companies to support those pending health insurance mergers.”  Apparently on the theory that the four other insurers are too small to compete in the individual policy “product segment.”  (Even though Centene Corp. and Kaiser Permanente seem to be doing just fine.)

Am I the only one wondering why UnitedHealth’s latest earnings warning would justify the mergers of its largest competitors?  Given the corporation’s “soaring” stock price.  Given the corporation’s growth in earnings-per-share.  Given the fact that the UnitedHealth paid out $2.4 billion to shareholders just in the first nine months of this year…?

Am I the only who remembers that Obamacare was intended to rein in profiteering by insurance companies?

Remember what it was like, back then?  “In the midst of a deep economic recession, America’s health insurance companies increased their profits by 56 percent in 2009, a year that saw 2.7 million people lose their private coverage.  The nation’s five largest for-profit insurers closed 2009 with a combined profit of $12.2 billion.”

So, yeah, I suppose someone could “blame” Obamacare for UnitedHealth’s current financial situation.  And the fact that UnitedHealth’s per-share profit (EPS) is 75% higher now than it was in 2009.

But if anybody’s going to start passing blame around, now that “the 2016 presidential election has brought the health care argument up more times than can easily be counted”…

I think we should also be talking about whether Obamacare managed to stop the corporate profiteering, like it was supposed to.

— — — —

Can’t help noticing…

Yesterday’s headlines were fueled by the sudden drop in UnitedHealth’s stock price, which followed its revised earnings statement.

But that was yesterday.  So far today, the stock price has recovered more than half of yesterday’s decline.

Which still leaves the stock trading at about four times its price in 2009.

— — — —

Read more NHLN coverage of stock buybacks here.

VIDEO: Planned Parenthood Wants New Hampshire to #AskAyotte About Her Record on Women’s Health

Ayotte Pinkwashes Record on Women’s Health in New Op-Ed

Concord, NH — Planned Parenthood Action Fund today responded to an op-ed posted by Kelly Ayotte today, calling out Ayotte’s tenuous claims about her record on women’s health and her recent votes to defund Planned Parenthood.

Statement from Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President of Public Policy at Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund:

“It’s clear that when Ayotte talks about making ‘women’s health a priority’ she only means “some” women.  

Kelly Ayotte seems to forget that access to lifesaving breast cancer screenings and mammography go hand in hand with access to health insurance. This is clear in her unapologetic crusade against the Affordable Care Act —  which has allowed thousands of New Hampshire women the ability to afford health care for the first time — and her efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides thousands of breast exams in our state.  

Protecting women’s health takes more than a commemorative coin. If Kelly Ayotte were serious about saving lives and making women’s health a priority, she would stop insulting New Hampshire women by pink-washing her record and support meaningful policies to improve health care in the Granite State.”

Or watch here.

Let’s look at the facts:

FACT:  Kelly Ayotte has actively tried to undermine improvements to breast cancer detection after she voted multiple times to defund Planned Parenthood. Defunding the nonprofit would have cut access to breast cancer screenings and affordable birth control for thousands of New Hampshire women. In 2014, Planned Parenthood provided over 1,900 New Hampshire women with breast exams and over 11 thousand with birth control.

FACT: Kelly Ayotte is not doing more for women’s health. Kelly Ayotte has an extensive record of voting against policies that would expand women’s access to the full range of health care services, which include votes to defund Planned Parenthood, which in New Hampshire — in addition to providing thousands of breast exams and thousands with birth control — administered over 13,000 STI tests, nearly 2,000 Pap tests, and engaged in sex education and outreach to nearly 2,000 individuals in 2013. 

  •  Senator Ayotte voted for a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks nationwide. [H.R. 36, Roll Call Vote 268, 9/22/15]
  •  Senator Ayotte voted against an amendment to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S. 178), which would create a Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund to provide additional resources to existing grant programs that assist survivors of human trafficking. The amendment would strike the Hyde Amendment from the fund, which would prohibit federal dollars from being used to pay for access to abortion care. [S. Amdt. 301 to S. 178, Roll Call Vote 156, 4/22/15]
  •  Senator Ayotte voted against an amendment to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2), that would have extended enhanced Medicaid reimbursement for primary care physicians,expanding it to include OB/GYN’s. It would have provided $500 million for the Title X family planning program and support training programs for women’s health nurse practitioners. Additionally, the “Women’s Access to Quality Health Care” amendment would have removed a reference to a harmful provision commonly referred to as the Hyde Amendment. [S. Amdt. 1117 to H.R. 2, Roll Call Vote 140, 4/14/15]
  •  Senator Ayotte voted against the “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act,” which was a legislative fix to the June 2014 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. [S. 2578, Roll Call Vote 228, 7/16/14]
  • Senator Ayotte voted against an amendment to the FY2014 Senate budget resolution, sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), that would “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to protect women’s access to health care, including primary and preventative health care, family planning and birth control, and employer-provided contraceptive coverage, such as was provided under the Affordable Care Act.” The amendment passed 56-43.[Roll Call Vote 64, S.Amdt. 438 to S.Con.Res. 8, 3/22/13]
  • Senator Ayotte voted in favor of an amendment to, “create a point of order against any legislation that would provide taxpayer funds to the United Nations while any member nation forces citizens or residents of that nation to undergo involuntary abortions.”  [Roll Call 86, S.Amdt. 702 to S.Con.Res. 8, 3/23/13]
  • Senator Ayotte voted for an amendment that would criminalize doctors and close family members who help young people access a safe and legal abortion. [S. Amdt. 292 to S. Con. Res. 8, Roll Call Vote 64, 3/22/13]

What people are saying about Ayotte’s record:

Boston Globe: This Senate Race Ground Zero For Women Issues 

“…Democrats, meanwhile, called into question the seriousness of Ayotte’s legislative efforts. New Hampshire Democratic National Committeewoman Kathy Sullivan described them as “a sham.”

“And if there’s one issue that each campaign plans to use against the other, it’s government funding for Planned Parenthood. Ayotte has voted three times to not have any government funds go to Planned Parenthood.”

Bustle: Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s Women’s Rights Record Has Been Placed Under Heavy Scrutiny. Should It Be?

“Earlier this month, Ayotte told Foster’s Daily Democrat that working parents shouldn’t be “so hard” on themselves — a suggestion that some feminists find ironic, because in 2013, Ayotte sponsored a bill that would have taken benefits away from working parents. The failed Working Families Flexibility Act, which The New York Times referred to as the “Family Unfriendly Act,” would have given workers, including low-wage workers, leave time that could be used with their families — at the expense of their overtime pay grade. Private-sector employees who worked overtime or more than 40 hours each week would be able to choose to have leave time, but they would be paid their regular rates when working overtime, rather than overtime pay rates.

“Ayotte’s other actions on women’s rights are similarly dismal, if not surprising. Ayotte has expressed her support for defunding Planned Parenthood in the past, but she also criticized her fellow Republicans last month for attempting to pass a bill that was destined to fail and could have caused a government shutdown. Ayotte also co-sponsored the failed Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed corporations to refuse to provide birth control health coverage for their employees. Still, Ayotte hasn’t done anything for women’s issues that most other Republicans wouldn’t have done — Carly Fiorina, a GOP presidential hopeful, is also anti-choice.”

What New Hampshire is saying:

 Concord Monitor: Letter: Seeing through Ayotte

“Fellow Granite Staters, please do not be fooled by Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s recent tactics with this latest GOP effort to defund Planned Parenthood and possibly shut down the government.

“Make no mistake. A look at Ayotte’s record opens a window that shows a much different image than the one she’s trying to create for herself now that her re-election is fast approaching. Facts don’t change, and once you get beyond her recent sleight of hand, the simple facts are that Ayotte has repeatedly voted to shut down the government and defund Planned Parenthood. The reason for her most recent stunt of a vote is to fool the masses and achieve her goal, which is to get re-elected – something that she’s clearly worried about.”

    Read the full letter here

Concord Monitor: Letter: Weighing Hassan vs. Ayotte

“She has also voted several times to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides critical health services to women, and wants to end traditional Medicare by turning it into a voucher program. She also would take health care away from 100,000 Granite Staters by overturning the ACA. All of this on top of protecting billions of dollars in special tax breaks for big oil companies and companies outsourcing jobs that support her.”

    Read the full letter here.

Concord Monitor: Letter: Ayotte has poor record on women’s health care:

“While Ayotte claims to be a big defender of women’s health, her record demonstrates otherwise. Ayotte has voted right along with her Republican colleagues as they continue, what some have termed, their “war on women.”

“Let’s look at the facts. Ayotte supported the misguided Hobby Lobby decision. She voted multiple times to allow employers to deny women access to contraception. She introduced a sham birth control bill that increased costs for women which, by the way, was opposed by the American Congress of OB-GYNs.

“Ayotte voted repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning centers. These centers provide critical health services including breast and cervical cancer screenings.

“While Kelly Ayotte and her backers are desperately trying to rewrite history, they can’t alter the facts. Ayotte has repeatedly voted to block women’s access to health care. She has supported efforts to allow employers to deny women coverage for birth control and other preventative screenings. One would hope that in 2015 a woman no less could do better than that.”

    Read the full letter here.

(Featured image is screen shot from PP video) 

Jeb Bush’s Policies: Downright Scary For The Middle Class

Image by Peter Kudlacz FLIKR

Image by Peter Kudlacz FLIKR

CONCORD, N.H. – Jeb Bush is back in the Granite State right before the scariest day of the year. And it’s fitting, too, because his policies for Granite State families? They’re down right scary for middle class Americans.

“Jeb Bush’s policies are more than scary – they would be a nightmare for Granite State families,” said Lizzy Price, New Hampshire Democratic Party Communications Director. “From his zombie tax plan, resurrected from the last Bush presidency, that would give massive cuts to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class to his illusionist trick to vanish the Affordable Care Act, hurting over 90,000 Granite Staters that have gained coverage, it’s fitting that Jeb Bush is in the Granite State this time of year – his policies are downright spooky.” 

The Undead: Jeb Bush’s Resurrected Tax Plan

Jeb Bush’s tax plan is straight out of the graveyard. It’s a resurrection of his brother’s massive tax cuts for the uber-wealthy and corporations at the expense of the middle class, but with even more tax breaks for the wealthy.  Watching the rich get more tax breaks while Granite State families are just trying to get by is straight out of an episode of Walking Dead. 

The Illusionist: Jeb Bush would make the ACA Disappear

Jeb Bush wants to vanish the Affordable Care Act into thin air, which would vanish coverage for 90,000 Granite Staters. His plan to take us back to the days of skyrocketing costs and lower quality patient care, all while taking away coverage from thousands and increasing the deficit is worse than a nightmare.

The House of Mirrors: Under Jeb Bush, Women would be Stuck with Fewer Places to Turn for Health Care

Jeb Bush has made it clear – his policies would roll back women’s health services. He has boasted about cutting funding in Florida for Planned Parenthood and he’d cut funding for critical preventative services leaving women stuck in a metaphorical House of Mirrors, with fewer places to turn for basic health care. 

The Marionette: Jeb Bush’s Energy Plan

Jeb Bush’s energy plan sounds like it was written by oil companies, but like he did in Florida, Bush has embraced a disastrous economic agenda that benefits himself and people like him, while considerations for tourism, public safety, clean water, clean air, and the environment have taken a backseat entirely. He just can’t seem to cut the puppet-master’s strings.

Jeb’s Plan To Repeal Obamacare Would Have “Severe Consequences To Working Families”

In typical Republican fashion, Jeb Bush announced his plan to (wait for it) Repeal the Affordable Care Act!

Like a broken record, repealing the ACA has been a GOP staple since the 2010 elections, despite the facts that the ACA is actually helping people.

Repealing the ACA would have “severe consequences to working families in New Hampshire and across the country,” said State Representative Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua.

Dr. Tom Sherman, a practicing physician and NH State Representative,  told reporters today that because of the ACA, he is “seeing patients who have not been to the doctor in a decade.” Dr. Sherman noted that because of the ACA, preventative care is provided at no additional cost.

In New Hampshire alone over 41,000 get healthcare through the states expanded Medicaid program and another 50,000 through the ACA exchange.

Dr. Sherman noted that there are 5 things that people look at when they are evaluating insurance plans.

  • Quality of care
  • Availability or Accessibility to care
  • Cost of premiums (annual costs)
  • Cost sharing (how much you have to pay out of pocket)
  • Cost of prescriptions

The ACA has improved every single one of these categories.

People are actually going to their own doctor now for routine visits instead of going to the Emergency Room for a one time fix. The quality of care goes up dramatically when you see the same doctor regularly over whichever doctor is “on call.”

The ACA put limitation on the amount of money that insurance companies can take in profits, reducing premiums and slowing the rate of premium increases. Families saw an average of $162 refund through profit limitations enacted by the ACA.

The ACA also closed the “donut hole” in Medicare part D reducing the cost of prescriptions for millions of seniors.

Dr. Sherman admits that the ACA is not perfect, but when you institute a program of this size there are going to be bumps in the road and improvements need to be made. “We need revisions, not repeal,” added Sherman.

So what would Jeb Bush’s plan of repealing the ACA do?

“Jeb’s plan would take us back to the days of skyrocketing healthcare costs,” said Rosenwald. “Jeb’s plan would take us back to the days when insurance companies could drop you when you get sick, or charge you more just for being a women.”

Jeb’s plan is take the federal government out and give control back to the states, because that worked so well before the ACA. Even under the ACA only 31 states have chosen to expand Medicaid and provide healthcare to millions of people in their states.

“Jeb’s record on healthcare was a disaster in Florida,” said Rosenwald. “He gave more control to the insurance companies and took away consumer protections.”

In Florida alone there are over 1.2 million people who would benefit from the Medicaid expansion, if they actually enacted the program. That is over million people, who without the expansion, do not currently have, and probably will never get healthcare.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, repealing the ACA would “add $353 billion dollars to the deficit over the next 10 years,” and kick 24 million people off of their existing healthcare plans.

The Affordable Care Act is working and it is saving working families money and making people healthier. Jeb Bush, and all the Republicans, want to take us backwards and kick millions of people off of their current healthcare plans. This is just unacceptable.

Attacks On Planned Parenthood Are Attacks On Working Families — #StandWithPP


Written by Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President for Public Policy, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Recently a story has unfolded alleging that Planned Parenthood is engaged with selling “fetal body parts.” The more we learn about this, the clearer it is that it’s part of a much bigger pattern of harassment by extremists whose real goal is to ban abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, and cut women off of birth control and lifesaving cancer screenings.

Votes are already on the docket this week in Congress and in New Hampshire that could defund Planned Parenthood—nationally and in our state. Republicans are already using these video attacks to push for federal legislation banning some abortions. And officials in Texas, Louisiana, and Ohio have launched investigations of Planned Parenthood, even though affiliates in those states don’t facilitate fetal tissue donations.

Nearly a hundred organizations across the country, including the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are standing with Planned Parenthood because they see this campaign for what it really is.

The videos released are part of a decade-long pattern of illegal harassment by fanatics whose focus is banning abortion and preventing women from accessing preventive health care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

As the Washington Post editorial board wrote, “truths were distorted to paint an inaccurate and unfair picture of a health organization that provides valuable services to women – as well as to demonize research that leads to important medical advances.”

And this editorial in The Concord Monitor is a good resource for those who want to separate fact from fiction.

This is just another orchestrated attack on women’s health. The people behind it have never been concerned with protecting the health and safety of women. And the only people who have broken laws are the extremists who have been hounding women and doctors for years.

Make no mistake—the attacks on Planned Parenthood are attacks on working families.

In New Hampshire, these attacks are threatening 12,000 low-income women’s access to basic health services like birth control, cancer screenings, and STI tests and treatment. Extremists are calling on the Executive Council to defund Planned Parenthood—again—and it could happen. Councilor Chris Sununu, District 3, is the swing vote, and while he’s supported Planned Parenthood’s contracts in the past, he’s under tremendous pressure by extremists to change his vote.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England has been providing high-quality care to hundreds of people in New Hampshire over the past fifty years. The fact that PPNNE doesn’t participate in tissue donation programs in New Hampshire underscores that the calls for a state investigation and defunding PPNNE health centers are all about political grandstanding, not facts.

The politicians who have raced to join the fanatical group behind these videos by calling for defunding Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will find that they are on the wrong side of public opinion, the wrong side of public health, and the wrong side of history.

You can #StandWithPP and the thousands of New Hampshire women who rely on Planned Parenthood for their healthcare. Email your Executive Councilor today and urge them to protect women’s health by voting “yes” on Planned Parenthood’s contract. Then join supporters for a rally outside the State House on Wednesday, August 5 at 9:30 a.m. before the Executive Council casts their vote.

Granite State Rumblings: We Must Put NH Families First In The Senate Budget

The NH Senate has passed their state budget. This budget was passed down straight party lines. It is extremely disappointing to see where the priorities of our Republican Senators lie; tax cuts for businesses that will result in a large loss of revenues to the state that could have been put toward vital human services. Many Granite State children and their families continue to struggle with stagnant wages, the high cost of housing and child care, and inadequate nutrition. Putting corporations before people just doesn’t make sense.

A very important program that was not included in the budget was the reauthorization of the bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP) formerly known as Medicaid Expansion, which currently covers more than 40,000 low-income Granite Staters. The 2014 law authorizing the NHHPP required it to be reauthorized by April 2016. The reasoning for this was to ensure that the program would work and people would take advantage of it.

The good news is that it is working and it is exceeding expectations! The New Hampshire Hospital Association has reported that emergency room visits by uninsured patients are down by over 20 percent. The hospitals have also reported significant decreases in uncompensated care. On top of that the program is bringing in millions of dollars to the state.

Beginning in 2016, the NHHPP will move those covered into the commercial insurance market, meaning they will get their coverage through private managed care companies. The funds needed to ensure a smooth transition need to be in place.

Governor Maggie Hassan had this to say about reauthorization of the program, “Reauthorizing this bipartisan program beyond the end of 2016 is critical for the health of our people and our economy, as uncertainty about the continuation of the program could lead to rising rates for all consumers. Uncertainty about the program’s future could also cause insurers to decide not to offer coverage in New Hampshire in 2017. We must work together to find a bipartisan path forward.”

If the NH Senate Republicans want to make New Hampshire a more attractive place for businesses then what could be better than having a health care program in place that will keep their workers healthy and productive? Draining needed revenues out of the state coffers to give to a majority of multi-national corporations is just wrong.

We urge you to call your state legislators and tell them, “Put Granite State children and their families first.”



From our friends at the NH Fiscal Policy Institute:

New Tax Cut Estimates Push Senate Budget Out of Balance

A new analysis from the Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) finds that the business tax cuts included in the version of the FY 2016-2017 budget that the Senate will consider today would result in a more sizable and more rapid loss of revenue than previously anticipated.

The analysis also suggests that the lion’s share of the tax reduction would accrue to a relatively small number of corporations operating in New Hampshire.

The version of the budget approved by the Senate Finance Committee last week would reduce the rate of the business profits tax (BPT) from 8.5 percent to 7.9 percent by the end of 2019 and drop the rate of the business enterprise tax (BET) from 0.75 percent to 0.675 percent over the same span. Members of the Committee assumed that these phased-in reductions would not have any impact on state revenue collections in FY 2016, but would lower such collections by $14 million in FY 2017. However, in a letter to Governor Maggie Hassan on June 2, DRA Commissioner John Beardmore notes that, given the proposed effective dates for the rate reductions, there would, in fact, be an impact in FY 2016 – a loss of $3.8 million. This effect, as Commissioner Beardmore observes, “is the result of adjustments that are likely to occur with the first two business tax estimate payments for Tax Year 2016, which are due in FY16.” In the same letter, he estimates a FY17 revenue loss of $19.4 million arising from the reductions to the BPT and BET. In other words, with these latest estimates, the Senate Finance Committee’s version of the budget, in order to maintain balance and still reduce business tax rates, must either reduce spending by an additional $9 million over the course of FY 2016-2017 or carry forward another $9 million in surplus from FY15 into the next biennium, over and above the $34 million surplus on which it already relies.

Finally, data accompanying the Commissioner’s letter indicate that there were fewer than 700 business entities with either a BPT or a BET liability in excess of $1 million in tax year 2012. These entities, in turn, represent approximately 1 percent of all businesses filing tax returns that year. DRA estimates that roughly $13.8 million of the $23.1 million tax cut the Finance Committee’s budget would produce in FY2016-2017 would accrue to these very large taxpayers. In other words, these very large businesses would receive close to three out of every five dollars flowing out of the budget in tax cuts over the next two years.

Governor Hassan And Senate Democrats Expresses Serious Concerns About Senate Finance Budget

Senate Finance Plan Would Hurt NH Businesses and Middle Class Families, Relies on Gimmicks That Will Leave Budget Unbalanced

Hassan: “Any budget that relies exclusively on the votes of one political party will fail to meet the expectations of our citizens and the needs of our economy.”

BudgetCONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan said today that she has serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee budget is unbalanced, contains misleading budget gimmicks and includes budget-busting tax cuts for big businesses that will hurt New Hampshire’s middle-class families, small businesses and economy.

“There are still several steps remaining in the budget process before a final bill makes its way to my desk, and I remain willing to roll up my sleeves and work toward a compromise, bipartisan budget that moves New Hampshire forward,” Governor Hassan said. “But I have serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee’s partisan plan will hurt families, undermine business growth and take our economy backward while relying on gimmicks that will ultimately leave the budget unbalanced.”

“Senate Republican leadership says that New Hampshire can’t afford to lower tuition at the community colleges, provide a modest cost-of-living increase to employees, fix our roads, fund mental health or even adequately staff our correctional institutions or our juvenile justice system. They even say that in the midst of a heroin epidemic, New Hampshire can’t afford to adequately fund substance misuse prevention and treatment.

“But instead of funding those priorities, Senate Republican leadership included large tax cuts that will create a hole in this budget and budgets well into the future,” Governor Hassan continued.

“All session long, Senate Democrats have urged our Republican colleagues to put partisan politics aside and have a serious budget conversation about how we can work together under the Governor’s leadership to expand middle class opportunity, support small businesses, and keep our state’s economy moving in the right direction,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn. “Unfortunately, the budget approved by the Senate Republicans prioritizes special interests and tax giveaways for big, out-of-state businesses over the people of New Hampshire.”

“Instead of joining with us to invest in our shared priorities as we did in the last bipartisan budget, the Senate Republican budget undermines our economic future, sets the state on precarious financial footing, and is neither compassionate nor responsible. It uses fiscally irresponsible budget gimmicks that have been decried by members of both parties—which means that the Senate Republicans are once again promising more services than their budget can actually deliver,” Woodburn continued.

Governor Hassan also said she had serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee did not reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, leaving the 40,158 New Hampshire citizens who had enrolled in the bipartisan program through May 26 in jeopardy of losing their health insurance in the second year of this budget. The program will receive a 95 percent federal match in 2017, but the legislature also did not include the money necessary to continue it.

“It is wrong to leave 40,000 people on the edge of losing their health insurance. The uncertainty is also bad for our health insurance market and our economy, and it could lead to rising rates for all consumers or insurers deciding not to offer coverage in New Hampshire in 2017 – something that will hurt all of our citizens,” Governor Hassan said.

“The Senate Republican budget includes cuts to mental health, substance abuse treatment, public safety and higher education—all of which undermines our efforts to build a stronger economic future,” Sen. Woodburn continued. “Their budget also ends the state’s business-backed, bipartisan Medicaid expansion program, which means that 40,000 people will lose coverage and businesses will be forced to pay the ‘hidden tax’ that results from cost-shifting of uncompensated care. And instead of fixing these devastating cuts, Senate Republicans decided to give tax cuts to large, out-of-state corporations.”

Governor Hassan also raised concerns about the Senate Finance Committee’s use of budget gimmicks and back-of-the budget cuts, misleading people about what is actually funded.

“The Senate Finance Committee claims to have ‘restored’ $6.5 million in mental health funding, but then they turned around and told the Department of Health and Human Services to cut $6.5 million from mental health services,” Governor Hassan said. “The committee’s continued reliance on irresponsible budget gimmicks will put our state on perilous financial footing and undermine the legislature’s constitutional duty to balance the budget.”

Some of the budget gimmicks and the back of the budget cuts in the Senate Finance Budget include:

  • Assuming $34 million from Fiscal Year 2015 will be left over to carry forward into Fiscal Year 2016.  In making that calculation, the Senate Finance Committee is double counting $15 million in lapses; not counting $3 million in additional appropriations for Fiscal Year 2015 authorized by the Fiscal Committee or by state law; and counting the $7 million in savings from Health and Human Services 2015 back-of-the-budget cut even as they directed Health and Human Services to spend that $7 million.
  • Not accounting for the impact their business tax cuts will have on estimated payments and business tax revenues in Fiscal Year 2016.
  • Saying they are restoring $6.25 million in mental health funding, while at the same time directing the Department of Health and Human Services to cut $6.25 million in mental health funding.
  • Assuming $3.5 million reduction at the Sununu Youth Services Center in 2015 with no plan for how to achieve the savings.
  • Assuming unrealistic savings estimates in Health and Human Services, include a caseload drop of 2 percent; and $12.5 million in “savings” from additional managed care programs.
  • Increasing lapse estimates by $9 million.
  • Diverting funds from last year’s bipartisan transportation funding plan from road work to operations and assuming the Department of Transportation can balance its budget through a federal financing vehicle that has not yet been approved by the federal Department of Transportation.
  • Failing to fully fund winter maintenance for the Department of Transportation.
  • Directing the Department of Transportation to pay for the widening of Route 106 with operational funds, without identifying where they should cut to make those payments.

“Any budget that relies exclusively on the votes of one political party will fail to meet the expectations of our citizens and the needs of our economy. I urge the legislature to work across party lines to pass a bipartisan budget that is honest about what it chooses to fund and invests in the priorities that are critical to the success of our people, our businesses and our economy,” Governor Hassan said.

“This budget proposal is unacceptable and Senate Democrats will continue to fight for an honest and balanced budget that expands opportunity for all, supports businesses throughout our state, and lays the foundation for a new generation of economic growth. Senate Republicans must put aside their partisan ambitions and work across party lines with Senate Democrats and the Governor to finalize a budget that’s truly responsible for New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy,” Woodburn concluded.

Kevin Avard Confronted, Admits He Just Doesn’t Like Medicaid Expansion

  When Pressed By A Voter, Avard Ducks and Condescends Before Finally Admitting He Just Opposes Expansion Because Of His Tea Party Ideology

Kevin Avard (via Girard FLIKR CC)

Kevin Avard (via Girard FLIKR CC)

Concord, N.H. – At a “Legislative Forum” in Nashua, a constituent pressed Kevin Avard repeatedly on why he supports repealing health care for the more than 38,000 Granite Staters already covered thanks to Medicaid expansion.

The constituent cited data from the New Hampshire Hospital Association showing that Medicaid expansion is working and uncompensated care is declining. Yet in the face of this data, Avard simply ducked and condescended before finally admitting that he just opposes expansion because of his Tea Party ideology.

Showing blatant disregard for the tens of thousands of Granite Staters who have already gotten covered by the program, Avard admitted, “I don’t like [Medicaid expansion]… I think it’s wrong, period. And in my view it’s socialism.”

Kevin Avard needs to listen to his own constituents and to the data that shows New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion plan is working,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “Continuing New Hampshire’s successful Medicaid expansion plan is the right thing to do for our people, businesses, and economy, and voters will hold Avard accountable in November 2016 for putting his Tea Party ideology before the interests of New Hampshire.”

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NH Insurance Department: Residents Will Have Health Plan Choices in 2016

5 Health Insurance Companies, 4 Dental Carriers File to Offer Plans on Marketplace

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire Insurance Department announces that state residents will have a variety of health insurance options to choose from in 2016.

At the close of the April 15 deadline for filing 2016 plans, five health insurance companies had submitted applications to offer plans on New Hampshire’s federally facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace in 2016. Four companies had applied to offer stand-alone dental plans.

“For 2015, New Hampshire residents had a range of health insurance companies, plans, and provider networks to choose among,” said New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. “I’m pleased that in 2016, they’ll likely have just as many options, if not more. Choice is good for consumers and good for competition.”

Health insurance companies that submitted applications to offer plans through the 2016 Marketplace include: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of New England, Community Health Options, Minuteman Health, and Ambetter from NH Healthy Families, offered by Celtic Insurance.

While some health insurance plans will include dental coverage, New Hampshire residents also will be able to choose among a variety of distinct dental plans. Four companies will offer stand-alone dental plans on the Marketplace: Anthem, Delta Dental, Dentegra Insurance Company, and Guardian Life Insurance Company.

New Hampshire is a partnership state, which means that the state is responsible for reviewing plans proposed for sale on the federally facilitated New Hampshire Health Insurance Marketplace and deciding whether to recommend them for final approval by the federal government. Open enrollment for 2016 plans will start November 1, 2015.

In June, the Department will host public information sessions detailing the health care provider networks likely to be available to New Hampshire residents in 2016 through the various health insurance plans offered on the Marketplace.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department’s mission is to promote and protect the public good by ensuring the existence of a safe and competitive insurance marketplace through the development and enforcement of the insurance laws of the State of New Hampshire. For more information, visit www.nh.gov/insurance.

Governor Hassan’s Statement on House Budget Vote

CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan today issued the following statement on the budget vote by the New Hampshire House of Representatives:

“In amending the House Finance Committee-recommended budget that already hurt families, undermined business growth and took our economy backward, Republicans in the House of Representatives managed today to make a reckless budget even worse. Their wildly irresponsible budget includes drastic reductions to services that are critical to our people and businesses, further downshifting on local property taxpayers, the raiding of the dedicated Renewable Energy Fund, continued budget gimmicks that mislead people about what we actually are funding, and the depletion of our Rainy Day Fund, which threatens our state’s financial outlook and bond rating.

“We know that our people and businesses support strategic investments in critical priorities that help ensure a strong and healthy workforce pipeline, a modern transportation infrastructure, and safe communities, but this harmful plan makes significant reductions to higher education, aid to local communities, road and bridge projects across the state, and critical services for seniors, substance misuse, mental health, and people who experience developmental disabilities. And by ending our bipartisan health care expansion program, the House Republican budget would eliminate health coverage for more than 37,000 hard-working Granite Staters.

“Not only would these reductions downshift responsibility to local property taxpayers, but they have a significant impact on our people, businesses and economic future, affecting areas that are critical to the health and well-being of our people and our economic competitiveness. They would make higher education more expensive, threaten to shut down local road and bridge projects, place an additional strain on our corrections officers, and harm the health and well-being of our families and workforce.

“It is still early in the process of finalizing a fiscally responsible, balanced budget, and I urge the Senate to take a different approach and recognize that we must work across party lines to pass a responsible budget that supports the priorities that matter to our people, businesses and economy. Senate Republicans cannot follow the path of their House counterparts and simply cater to the most extreme members of their party at the expense of common-sense and fiscal responsibility. The families, businesses and hard-working people of the Granite State deserve better than that.

“Two years ago, we worked together to pass the most bipartisan budget in more than a decade, and we must build on that progress by doing the responsible thing and making a bipartisan investment in the success of our people, our businesses and our economy.”

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