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Governor Hassan Participates in Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy Forum

 Hassan Outlines Priorities to Help the Middle Class Grow and Thrive hassan-at-cffe-forum1MANCHESTER –  Today, Governor Maggie Hassan participated in a forum hosted by the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, highlighting her commitment to expanding economic opportunity for all hard-working Granite State families. 

“I’m proud of the steps we have taken here in New Hampshire to lay the foundation for inclusive economic growth and to support a thriving middle class,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “To meet the progress we are making here at home, my Innovate NH 2.0 economic plan outlines the steps I will take to Washington to ensure that all hard-working families have the chance to get ahead and stay ahead. In the Senate, I will fight for priorities to help middle class families make ends meet, including providing a $1,000 tax cut for middle class families, helping families afford child care, and expanding paid family leave.”

hassan-at-cffe-forum2As Governor, Maggie Hassan has worked to increase economic opportunity for hard-working families including by expanding access to health coverage for over 50,000 Granite Staters, signing the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act to help ensure that everyone earns equal pay for equal work, and fighting to restore and increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage. And under Governor Hassan’s leadership, New Hampshire has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, with more people working than at any point in state history.

In her Innovate NH 2.0 economic plan, Governor Hassan outlined the priorities she will take to the Senate to foster business innovation and expand middle class opportunity. As Senator, Maggie will fight to end tax breaks for special interests so that we can help ease the tax burden on the middle class. She will also continue fighting to raise the minimum wage, help families afford child care, expand paid family leave, and ensure equal pay for equal work.

American Nurses Association Endorses Gov. Maggie Hassan In Senate Race

Image from Hassan Campaign (All Rights Reserved)

Image from Hassan Campaign (All Rights Reserved)

SILVER SPRING, MD – The American Nurses Association (ANA) and its Political Action Committee (ANA-PAC) announced today the endorsement of Gov. Maggie Hassan in her race to represent the residents of New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate. Each election cycle, ANA-PAC endorses candidates who have demonstrated strong support for nursing and health care issues and will best serve the interests of nurses and their patients.

Elected in 2012, Gov. Hassan has worked across party lines to successfully pass New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan, which is already providing quality, affordable coverage to nearly 50,000 residents of the Granite State, and reducing uncompensated care that shifts costs to individuals and businesses.

“I am honored to accept the endorsement of the American Nurses Association, which represents our country’s 3.6 million registered nurses,” said Gov. Maggie Hassan. “Ensuring that our citizens can live healthy, productive lives is essential to their freedom and well-being, and critical to our economy. As governor, I have worked to make health care more accessible and affordable for all of our people and businesses, including successfully passing and reauthorizing our bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan. I have worked with nurses and others on the front lines to combat the heroin and opioid crisis. And I have also worked to address our state’s health care workforce challenges. In the Senate, I will continue to fight to increase access to affordable health care and strengthen our health care workforce.”

“Gov. Hassan believes we need to move toward a system that rewards health outcomes and puts quality over the quantity of services that nurses provide. She is also an advocate of children’s health and safety. We know she will continue to support the work of nurses and patient safety in the Senate,” said Judith Joy, PhD, RN, executive director of the New Hampshire Nurses Association. “We applaud her leadership as governor and look forward to continuing to work with her to ensure nurses’ voices are heard on Capitol Hill.”

ANA-PAC works to ensure that nursing’s perspective is considered in policy decisions made on Capitol Hill. Endorsement decisions are based on several criteria including, but not limited to, candidate interviews, communication with ANA’s constituent and state nurses associations, campaign information, and the candidate’s voting record on ANA’s priority issues.

For more information, please visit ANA-PAC.

Democrats Praise NH’s Medicaid Expansion While Republicans Scream “Repeal”

Governor Hassan signs the New Hampshire Health Protection Program

Governor Hassan signs the New Hampshire Health Protection Program

Governor Hassan and NHDP Chairman praise the two-year anniversary of theNew Hampshire Health Protection Program while Republican candidates all agree on repealing the program.  

Today is the two-year anniversary of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, New Hampshire’s version of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The program provides health coverage to an additional 50,000 Granite Staters who previously were ineligible for Medicaid but could not afford to purchase private insurance. 

“Two years since health coverage began, the bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program is boosting our economy, strengthening the health and financial security of our people and businesses and helping combat the heroin and opioid crisis. Today, nearly 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters have the security and peace of mind that comes with quality, affordable health insurance, and thousands have accessed substance misuse and behavioral health services. I am proud that we worked together across party lines earlier this year to reauthorize this critical program, and I look forward to continuing to work with members from both parties, health care providers and other stakeholders to maximize the benefits of health care expansion for all of our people and businesses,” said Governor Hassan.  

“For the health of our families and our economy, we need to make sure the Medicaid expansion is renewed next session,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn. “Senate Democrats remain fully committed to making sure New Hampshire families are as healthy as they can be and our economy is as strong as it can be.”

“Especially with the opioid crisis still raging in our state, we can’t afford to play games with people’s health,” added Woodburn. “It’s been shown that next to Granite Hammer legislation, the single most important thing we in government can do to fight addiction is to continue the Medicaid expansion for our most vulnerable fellow citizens.”

Though the Senate has compromised in the past and expanded Medicaid with both Democratic and Republican votes, the retirements of several moderate Republicans this year puts the future of the program in jeopardy. 

“With our moderate colleagues like David Boutin and Nancy Stiles leaving us, we fear the Republican caucus will be even more extreme when we convene again in December,” continued Woodburn. “Fortunately, we have strong candidates and campaigns in every district in the state this year. With victories in key districts, Democrats will become the majority in the State Senate and will act quickly to ensure the future of this program. We’re confident that Granite State voters will back common sense in November and vote for continued Medicaid.” 

The  New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley issued the following statement on the second anniversary of coverage beginning under New Hampshire’s successful bipartisan Medicaid expansion program that now provides coverage to nearly 50,000 Granite Staters and needed resources to providers on the frontlines of the opioid crisis:

“Today, we celebrate New Hampshire taking an important step forward two years ago to ensure quality, affordable healthcare for the people of our state. We thank Governor Maggie Hassan and the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate for their tireless work to expand insurance coverage to almost 50,000 of our neighbors, improving not only our community’s health but boosting our economy as well.

“Unfortunately, some Republican leaders including Kelly Ayotte and the Republican gubernatorial candidates remain committed to putting their special interest backers ahead of the people of New Hampshire. While each of the Republicans running for Governor has made their opposition to the New Hampshire Health Protection Program clear, Kelly Ayotte has actually voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end this successful program that has already helped so many in our state. 

“New Hampshire cannot afford to end this bipartisan, innovative program that is saving lives across the Granite State. That is why we must–and will–defeat Kelly Ayotte in November and maintain Democratic control of the Governor’s office.”

Every GOP candidate – Chris Sununu, Ted Gatsas, Jeanie Forrester & Frank Edelblut – has either voted to prevent or repeal Medicaid expansion or actively opposes New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion.

“That every Republican candidate for governor opposes or wants to repeal New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion reveals just how far to the right these candidates are running. Medicaid expansion has extended health care to nearly 50,000 Granite Staters, and has provided substance abuse benefits to another 6,000 people. The Republicans’ opposition to this successful program is just one more instance of their putting political ideology before the well-being of New Hampshire families,” added Buckley. 

Polls show Granite Staters favor Medicaid expansion, with a massive 66% of voters backing its original authorization. But the Republican candidates are unanimous in their opposition to New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion. 

Executive Councilor Chris Sununu told NH1 he’s “all for repealing Medicaid,” and he has the record to prove it. He voted against endorsing a special session to consider Medicaid expansion and voted against the original contract allow Medicaid expansion to begin.

In April 2016, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas told the Union Leader that “he does not believe Medicaid expansion is the long-term solution” for low-income Granite Staters. When criticized by a Forrester advisor for not being sufficiently extreme on the issue, “the Gatsas campaign repeated his opposition per the candidate’s point above, that the program is not the solution and New Hampshire needs to pursue alternatives.”

State Senator Jeanie Forrester voted against reauthorizing Medicaid expansion earlier this year and her campaign criticized Sununu and Gatsas for suggesting they support Medicaid expansion. Sadly, their response doubled down on their opposition, making it clear they’re just as out-of-touch with low-income Granite Staters as she is. Her health care plan, released last week, doubled down on her opposition to Medicaid expansion.

State Representative Frank Edelblut voted against Medicaid expansion reauthorization and told the Concord Monitor he would not reauthorize the program were he to be elected governor.

High Praise From NH’s Elected Leaders After Governor Signs Two-Year Medicaid Reauthorization

Leaders Across the State Applaud Governor’s Signing of Bipartisan Bill Reauthorizing New Hampshire Health Protection Program 

CONCORD – After Governor Maggie Hassan signed today House Bill 1696, bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, stakeholders in the fight against the heroin and opioid crisis from across the state – including law enforcement, fire fighters, advocates, the medical community, local officials and business leaders – applauded the work of the Governor and members from both parties:

“The New Hampshire Health Protection Program is critical to helping law enforcement stem the tide of the heroin and opioid epidemic. Renewing this vital program ensures that we can continue to tackle the heroin and opioid crisis with a comprehensive approach that focuses on prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts. I thank Governor Hassan for her commitment to renewing this important program.” – Strafford County Sheriff David Dubois 

“As Sheriff, I see the devastating effects of the heroin and opioid crisis every day. The New Hampshire Health Protection Program has been vital in allowing our law enforcement officials to work with treatment and recovery centers to help one of our most vulnerable populations. The reauthorization of this legislation will help us to stem the tide of this epidemic, and I am grateful to Governor Hassan for her work to make this reauthorization a reality.” – Cheshire County Sheriff Eli Rivera

“Each day, fire fighters throughout New Hampshire are on the front lines of combating the heroin and opioid crisis, and it is critical we have every resource available to help in those efforts. Reauthorization of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program is a critical step forward in this fight, as it will help increase access to treatment and prevention programs.  I am grateful Governor Hassan and state legislators were able to work across party lines to get this done for our state.” – Goffstown Fire Chief and New Hampshire Association of Fire Chiefs President Richard O’Brien 

“House Bill 1696 is an important step forward in maintaining access to health care for hard-working New Hampshire residents in a fiscally responsible manner.” – State Representative Joseph Lachance, House Bill 1696 Prime Sponsor 

“Health care costs are commonly cited by our small business members as a challenge to growth. By re-authorizing the NH Health Protection Program through HB1696 not only are we creating healthier communities by ensuring more than 48,000 low-income individuals continue to have access to health care coverage, but we are also taking a positive step to address the health care costs facing small businesses. This program is reducing the uncompensated care costs in our health care system and will put downward pressure on health insurance premiums in the future.” – Mike Skelton, President & CEO, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce 

“Like other illnesses, positive outcomes are more likely to occur for people with mental illness the sooner they get into treatment.  Providing health insurance coverage to close to 50,000 Granite State residents by reauthorizing the NH Health Protection Program will continue to result in many of them seeking out mental health and substance misuse treatment before it becomes a crisis. NAMI NH is deeply appreciative of the bipartisan support of the Legislature and Governor in passing this important piece of legislation.” – Ken Norton, Executive Director, NAMI NH – The National Alliance on Mental Illness 

“Today’s signing of HB 1696 by Governor Hassan represents a continuation of New Hampshire’s commitment to ensure that people suffering from addiction will have access to critically needed treatment and recovery services, and assures substance use disorder treatment providers who want to expand capacity that reimbursement for services provided to thousands of Granite Staters will continue.  The NH Health Protection Program is the most important tool NH has in its fight against the opioid epidemic and more broadly the substance misuse crisis ravaging our state.” – Linda Paquette, Executive Director, New Futures 

“Today, thousands of Granite Staters can rest assured that they will continue to have access to critical substance use treatment and recovery support services. And providers can continue their work to expand treatment and recovery access to individuals and families struggling with the opiate epidemic.” – Tym Rourke, Chair, Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery

“We know that we cannot arrest our way out of the heroin and opioid crisis, and that strengthening prevention, treatment and recovery efforts is critical to a comprehensive approach. The New Hampshire Health Protection Program has provided substance misuse and behavioral health services to thousands of Granite Staters, and its reauthorization will help us increase treatment capacity. The collaboration that made reauthorization possible is a strong example of how we must all work together to combat the heroin and opioid crisis.” – James Vara, Senior Assistant Attorney General, New Hampshire Drug Prosecuting Unity and Incoming Governor’s Advisor on Addiction and Behavioral Health 

“Hospitals applaud the strong, bipartisan efforts from the Governor, Senate and House leadership and stakeholders across the State to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP) so that the more than 48,000 Granite State residents can continue to count on the private health insurance coverage that is allowing them to get the primary and preventative care they need to become and remain healthy. The NHHPP has successfully reduced the number of uninsured patients seeking care in emergency rooms; reduced the amount of uncompensated care provided by hospitals to those without insurance; and reduced the cost shift to those with insurance.  It is a significant step forward for patients, providers, businesses and our state’s economy.” – Steve Ahnen, President, New Hampshire Hospital Association 

“I thank Governor Hassan and the legislature for their tireless work to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. Their efforts will enable people in Nashua and across the state to continue to seeking and receiving treatment to achieve recovery from opioid addiction. The success of this bipartisan plan shows again how Governor Hassan and the legislators know how to get things done the Granite State way—by rolling up her sleeves and working across the aisle to find common ground and move the ball forward.” – Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess 

“I applaud Governor Hassan and Senator Woodburn for their tireless efforts to renew the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. The New Hampshire Health Protection Program has been particularly critical to our citizens in Coos County, where the program has helped 1,800 Granite Staters access quality, affordable health insurance. The program also provides vital resources to combat the heroin and opioid crisis in our state, providing access to substance abuse treatment and recovery centers for those who would not be able to afford these services otherwise. Reauthorization will give these families the flexibility to move forward with their lives and in our communities.” – Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier

“I applaud Governor Hassan and the bipartisan coalition of State House Members and Senators whose dedicated efforts made the renewal of our Medicaid Expansion program possible. This vital reauthorization will allow nearly 50,000 of our fellow Granite Staters to keep their health insurance and access the healthcare they need – everything from cancer screenings and preventative care to substance abuse recovery and treatment. Through this program, thousands of Granite Staters have been able to access substance abuse and behavioral health services, and it is an important part of increasing treatment capacity.” – Mayor Dana Hilliard, Somersworth

“Fighting New Hampshire’s devastating opioid and substance abuse crisis is a priority Governor Hassan and I share, and I salute her for her leadership in passing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program to protect access to treatment and recovery for tens of thousands of Granite Staters. Her hard work and careful stewardship of this bill will save lives by renewing health insurance for nearly 50,000 people across our state and improving access to substance abuse treatment for many more.” – Keene Mayor Kendall Lane

Governor Hassan Signs Bipartisan Legislation Reauthorizing New Hampshire Health Protection Program

maggie hassan signs NHHPP 2NHHPP Providing Nearly 50,000 Hard-Working Granite Staters with Health and Financial Security, Reducing Healthcare Cost-Shifting onto People and Businesses, Playing Critical Role in Combating Heroin and Opioid Crisis 

CONCORD – Continuing her efforts to strengthen the health and financial security of all Granite Staters, Governor Maggie Hassan today signed House Bill 1696, bipartisan legislation that reauthorizes the New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP). She was joined for a ceremony at the State House by legislators from both parties, advocates, providers, patients and state employees whose hard work has been critical to the program’s successful implementation.

“Two years ago, we worked together across party lines to establish our bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program, which was the most significant piece of health care legislation that the State of New Hampshire had seen in decades,” Governor Hassan said. “And today, thanks to the hard work and bipartisan efforts of all of you, we are taking another historic step forward by reauthorizing this critical health care expansion program.

“It is clear that expansion is strengthening the health and financial security of our citizens, and we know that reauthorization is also critical to our businesses, to our economy and to the ongoing battle with substance misuse,” Governor Hassan said. 

Through NHHPP, nearly 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters have the peace of mind and security that come with quality, affordable health insurance. With more New Hampshire citizens now receiving health insurance since the bipartisan healthcare expansion plan was adopted, hospitals continue to see a reduction in inpatient, outpatient and emergency department visits from uninsured Granite Staters and uncompensated care continues to decline, which reduces healthcare cost-shifting onto all of New Hampshire’s citizens and businesses. 

As the state continues to battle the heroin and opioid crisis, NHHPP has provided thousands of Granite Staters with substance misuse and behavioral health services. Experts have said that the program’s reauthorization is essential to expanding treatment capacity in New Hampshire.

The state has also seen an increase in revenues from the insurance premium tax and is beginning to see cost-savings elsewhere thanks to preventive and primary care and other benefits covered by expansion. Combined, these measures are expected to save taxpayers a total of 29 million dollars in avoided costs over the next biennium. House Bill 1696 reauthorizes the program for two additional years.  

“Unlike Washington, we have shown time and again that we are capable of engaging with each other, putting arguments aside and coming together to solve problems, leading to progress for our businesses and families,” Governor Hassan said. “And thanks to the tireless efforts of all of you and countless others who couldn’t join us today, we were able to put ideology aside and reauthorize this critical program that is strengthening our families, our businesses and our economy. Again, I want to thank everyone who worked together to make today a reality.”

maggie hassan signs NHHPP 1

Granite State Rumblings: Reauthorizing Medicaid Expansion And Making Ends Meet In NH

I could not have said this any better. Thank you Jeff McLynch for this excellent piece in Sunday’s Concord Monitor.

My Turn: Much further to climb on journey to economic stability

By Jeff McLynch

For the Monitor

If you’ve ever been out for hike, you know it can happen. You’ve been trudging along for a few hours and the top of the mountain finally seems within reach. Yet, after climbing farther, you realize it was only a false summit hiding the true peak; you’ve actually still got a long way to go to reach your goal.

When it comes to ensuring greater economic security, New Hampshire has a false summit problem, too. At 9.2 percent, New Hampshire’s poverty rate was the lowest in the nation in 2014, the most recent year for which such data is available. However, because of flaws in the way the federal government measures poverty, that relatively positive news hides just how much further New Hampshire must go before everyone in the Granite State can truly make ends meet.

Consider that, in 2014, the income level at which a single person was no longer considered poor in our country was just over $12,300. For a family of four, the corresponding threshold was a little more than $24,000. All it takes is a moment’s reflection on the expenses we incur in our own lives each day to appreciate just how low those thresholds are – and by extension, how inadequate federal poverty statistics are for understanding what it really takes for Granite State families just to get by.

Analysts at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, have devised an alternative measure of need that provides a more comprehensive assessment of the incomes families need to be able to secure life’s necessities. Referred to as a “basic family budget,” this measure seeks to remedy the two principal shortcomings of the federal poverty threshold. It reflects not only the actual costs families encounter in purchasing basics like food, clothing, shelter, health care and child care, but also geographic variations in those costs.

EPI’s findings for New Hampshire are revealing. Under its basic family budget calculations, a single person living in the Concord area needs an income of close to $31,600 per year to be able to afford rent, groceries and other essentials. That’s more than 2½ times the income at which the same person would be considered poor. The gap is even larger for families. The basic family budget for a two-parent, two-child family in the Concord area amounts to about $67,932 – almost three times the official poverty level.

EPI’s research also underscores how much more expensive it can be to live in the Granite State than in other places across the country. For example, EPI devised basic family budgets for 618 distinct communities across the country. For a family of three, only about one out every five of those communities had a higher cost of living than in Concord and other parts of the state.

In its new paper, “Taking the measure of need in the Granite State,” (see Growing Up Granite below), the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute explores EPI’s basic family budget findings for four key family types in various regions of the state and builds upon the data to try to understand whether jobs here in New Hampshire allow families to meet their basic needs.

To be sure, wages and salaries can be higher here in New Hampshire than elsewhere, but it’s likely that a significant share of the jobs available in the state leave workers unable to achieve a modest standard of living. Based on EPI’s research, as well as data from the Occupational Employment Statistics survey, NHFPI estimates that about one-third of all jobs in New Hampshire pay less than what a single person would need to reach his or her basic family budget; as many as two-thirds of all jobs fail to pay enough for a single parent with one child to do so. Indeed, the typical wage in some of the most common jobs in the state – whether retail sales positions, waiters and waitresses, janitors, or cashiers – simply is insufficient to enable workers to secure even just the basics.

Unfortunately, a single solution to the challenges facing working Granite Staters does not exist. Rather, in the years ahead, the task before policymakers will be to identify and to implement a combination of reforms to help families make ends meet, both by bolstering incomes and by bringing the costs of basic necessities within closer reach. That kind of comprehensive strategy should aim to help people acquire the skills and education they need to find and to keep a job, remove barriers to full participation in the workforce, and ensure that everyone receives a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

The journey toward economic security is an endless climb for far too many Granite Staters. They work tirelessly each day, but remain unable to meet their most immediate needs, much less achieve their longer-term financial goals – saving for retirement, sending their kids to college or purchasing their own home. New Hampshire’s future will depend upon our ability to clear the path and ensure that economic stability remains achievable and within reach.

(Jeff McLynch is Executive Director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute in Concord.)

GROWING UP GRANITE

Taking the Measure of Need in the Granite State
NH Fiscal Policy Institute

New Hampshire’s poverty rate of 9.2 percent was the lowest in the nation in 2014.  While that distinction should inspire some pride, it should not engender complacency, for, as a means of assessing economic security, official federal poverty statistics often come up short.  Indeed, economists and other analysts have long understood that the federal poverty threshold does not accurately reflect the level of income required to secure basic necessities, particularly in a state like New Hampshire, where the cost of living tends to be higher than in many other parts of the country.

Research by the Economic Policy Institute has produced a more robust measure of need, referred to as a “Basic Family Budget,” that more fully captures the cost of acquiring essential goods and services, from housing and health care to clothing and child care.  In some instances, depending upon a family’s size and place of residence, their Basic Family Budget is three times as great as the federal poverty threshold, underscoring that many Granite State families, while not poor by official statistics, still struggle each day to make ends meet.

This Issue Brief describes the federal poverty threshold, examines some of its shortcomings, and explains the notion of using the Basic Family Budget calculation as an alternative measure of need.  It also attempts to assess the degree to which various jobs in New Hampshire pay wages that are high enough to allow Granite State families to meet their basic needs.

Official Federal Measure Shows Poverty Low but Rising in New Hampshire

gsrmarch16_1

In 2014, 118,000 New Hampshire residents lived in families with incomes below the official federal poverty threshold, according to estimates from the US Census Bureau.[i]  This number amounts to 9.2 percent of New Hampshire’s population, the lowest share of any state’s population to be considered poor.  However, the issue of Granite Staters not earning enough for basic needs has steadily become more pervasive, with the number of New Hampshire residents living in material deprivation in 2014 almost twice what it was in 2000.  Consequently, as the graph below depicts, the share of Granite Staters living in poverty remains considerably above the 5.3 percent rate that held at the turn of the century.

Each year the Census Bureau publishes figures by family type that are known as poverty thresholds.  Essentially, if a family’s income is less than the dollar amount of the threshold for its household type, all the members of that household are considered to be living in poverty.  Below is a subset of the official federal poverty thresholds for 2014.

When the federal poverty threshold was created in the 1960s, research on household consumption patterns revealed that a family of three or more spent about one-third of its budget on food.  Consequently, the official poverty thresholds were created by multiplying the cost of a minimum food diet by three.  The only adjustments to those original figures that have been made over time are to account for the general increase in all consumer prices, better known as inflation.

Shortcomings of the Federal Poverty Threshold

Given this information, the federal poverty thresholds suggest that a single person who earns $1,050 per month does not live in poverty.  The same holds for a married couple with one child who earns $1,600 per month.  gsrmarch16_2Nevertheless, given the costs people face today, these numbers instinctively feel inadequate, an intuition that is borne out when one examines existing data on household expenditures.  According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, a modest efficiency apartment in New Hampshire for a single person has a price tag of around $750 per month.[ii]  For a family of three, a two-bedroom apartment costs nearly $1,100 per month.  Based on these costs, shelter would constitute two-thirds of a poverty-level budget for each household, leaving little room to purchase food, clothing, health care, and transportation.

These examples demonstrate that the federal poverty threshold may not accurately capture the degree of economic insecurity individuals and families face. Supporting this conclusion, the Census Bureau concedes that the poverty thresholds are “…a statistical yardstick, not a complete description of what people need to live.”[iii]  One weakness of the federal poverty threshold is the assumption that households spend one-third of their budgets on food; current data show that number is closer to 12 to 13 percent.[iv]  Additionally, the federal poverty threshold does not account for geographic differences in housing and other costs, treating disparate places like New York City and Jackson, Mississippi equivalently.  Lastly, the official measure defines “family resources” only as cash income, such as wages, Social Security benefits, and investment income.  It does not add to a family’s resources non-cash governmental benefits (for example, SNAP or housing subsidies) or tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit.  It also does not subtract from a family’s resources such necessary expenses as out-of-pocket medical expenditures or commuting costs.

In response to these shortcomings, Congress requested that the National Academy of Sciences convene a panel to examine the federal poverty threshold in greater depth.  That panel produced a report in 1995 with a number of recommendations, which eventually led the Census Bureau to create what is called the supplemental poverty measure.[v]  This method did not replace the official measure, but rather exists to provide alternative figures for comparison purposes.  Unlike the official poverty threshold, the supplemental measure uses current data on household expenditures to approximate what it takes to purchase basic necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, and utilities.  Moreover, the supplemental poverty measure accounts for geographic differences in housing costs, meaning that its dollar thresholds vary from state to state, whereas the official poverty thresholds are identical for the 48 contiguous states.  Finally, the supplemental measure adds non-cash governmental benefits and federal tax credits to a household’s income and subtracts out necessary expenses in order to capture the resources available to a household.

As of 2014, for twenty-six states, the poverty rate under the supplemental measure was lower than the official rate, meaning that the official measure is overstating poverty.[vi]  In eleven states, no statistically significant difference was found between the two measures.  In thirteen states, including New Hampshire, the supplemental measure found more people living in poverty.  Looking more closely at this final pool of states, two patterns emerge.  First, most of these places, such as California, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Northeast region, have above-average housing costs, which is not captured by the official poverty measure.  Second, the populations of the Northeast and Florida are older than the rest of the country.  This is germane because the supplemental measure deducts insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses (such as co-pays for prescriptions or doctor’s visits) from available financial resources.  Because this category of expenses tends to be significant for older people, subtracting them results in an increase in measured poverty for those 65 years old and over.[vii]

Basic Family Budgets: A Better Measure of Need

While the supplemental poverty measure is a meaningful improvement over the official method, it has its own limitations.  First, with the exception of housing, the supplemental measure does not reflect geographic variability in its estimates of costs that households encounter every day.  Second, the supplemental measure only provides information “at the national level or within large subpopulations,” meaning that it does not capture differences within states.[viii]  Finally, child care costs are not adequately measured.  Rather than surveying child care providers to approximate market-based rates, the supplemental measure uses information from working parents on what they spend on child care.  This distinction is important since many low-income families who are unable to afford market rates have to rely on alternatives for care, such as a relative or neighbor.

Given the supplemental measure’s constraints, researchers have attempted to construct more robust standards of need that reflect what it takes to achieve economic security and independence.  One such effort is the Family Budget Calculator compiled by analysts at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonpartisan think-tank based in Washington, DC.[ix]  Their objective is to estimate the “income necessary for families to secure an adequate but modest living.”  To achieve this, they identify the most basic expenses households incur: housing, food, transportation, health care, child care (if applicable), taxes, and other necessities (such as clothing).  From there, they price each expense as locally as possible for ten different family types, ranging from one adult with no children to two adults with four children.[x] These Basic Family Budget calculations are done for sub-state regions within all 50 states.

Driven mostly by geographic definitions from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, under EPI’s analysis, New Hampshire is divided into eight geographic areas.  Each is shown below along with a sample of towns, cities, and counties within each area.[xi]

gsrmarch16_3

In the following table, annual budgets for four family types are shown for each area of New Hampshire, along with the official poverty thresholds as a percentage of EPI’s Basic Family Budget.  What is evident is that the federal poverty threshold is far beneath the income necessary for any family to attain an adequate living standard in the Granite State.

gsrmarch16_4

A closer examination of EPI’s research reveals that health care, rent, and child care (for families with children) are the largest costs households face, rather than food, as assumed by the official poverty thresholds.  For instance, the figure below shows a Basic Family Budget for a two adult, one child family in Manchester, the state’s largest city.  As it illustrates, health care costs constitute 14 percent of their budget, rent comprises 20 percent, and child care makes up 16 percent.

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In addition to varying by family type, the costs of many basic necessities vary by geography, and, as noted above, those costs are often higher in the northeastern part of the United States.  The table below provides a helpful depiction of such variation.  Again, EPI estimates that a two adult, one child family in Greater Manchester needs an annual income of nearly $63,000 to secure a modest standard of living, a figure that ranks in the top fifth of the 618 family budget areas analyzed by EPI.  In other words, for a two adult, one child family, Greater Manchester is a more expensive place to live than 80 percent of US communities, outpacing such cities as Little Rock and St. Louis.  Greater Manchester’s comparatively high ranking is primarily due to higher costs for housing and child care.  More specifically, at $12,624 per year, housing costs for a two adult, one child family in Greater Manchester are among the top quarter of areas examined by EPI.  Likewise, annual child care costs of $9,826 for a two adult, one child family in Greater Manchester are roughly 10 percent higher than child care costs in Pittsburgh, which represented the 75th percentile of such costs in EPI’s analysis.

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Many Jobs in New Hampshire Leave Workers Unable to Achieve an Adequate Standard of Living

While estimates of the number and share of New Hampshire households with incomes below the federal poverty threshold are produced by the Census Bureau each year, comparable figures for the degree to which Granite Staters are unable to meet their Basic Family Budgets are not yet available.  Nevertheless, NHFPI has attempted, based on state occupational data, to approximate how many jobs in New Hampshire pay wages that are high enough to allow Granite State families to meet their Basic Family Budget.

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As explained in greater detail in the methodology section following the conclusion of this Issue Brief, NHFPI examined data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey on the distribution of wages paid in each of 603 different occupations in New Hampshire.  It then compared those wages to Basic Family Budgets for four key family types, and, using several simplifying assumptions, arrived at an estimate of the number of jobs in New Hampshire that pay above or below those budgets.  Accordingly, as summarized in the table above, NHFPI finds that:

  • Roughly 64 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for a single, childless adult to attain an adequate standard of living, as measured by EPI’s Basic Family Budget.
  • Only about 30 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for a single parent with one child to attain an adequate standard of living.
  • Approximately 64 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for two working adults with one child to attain an adequate standard of living.
  • Roughly 56 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for two working adults with two children to attain an adequate standard of living.

A review of the overall distribution of wages among all New Hampshire occupations provides a rough corroboration of these findings.  In particular, according to the OES survey, 25 percent of all occupations pay $24,230 or less, 50 percent pay $36,420 or less, and 75 percent pay $56,800 or less.  In turn, Basic Family Budgets for a single parent with one child range from about $51,600 to $61,600 – that is, ranging from just below to slightly above the 75th percentile wage.  In comparison, NHFPI estimates that nearly 70 percent of occupations do not pay enough for a single parent with one child to make ends meet.  Similarly, Basic Family Budgets for a single, childless adult range from $28,900 to $37,700, a span squarely above the 25th percentile wage but generally below the 50th percentile mark, largely consistent with NHFPI’s finding that about 36 percent of occupations pay less than the level needed for a single person to achieve an adequate standard of living.

To illustrate further the general finding that many jobs in New Hampshire do not pay enough for families and individuals to achieve an adequate standard of living, the table below compares the Basic Family Budget for the Strafford County-Great Bay Region for four main family types with the median wage for the 20 most common occupations in New Hampshire.  Check marks (P) indicate scenarios in which a particular median wage equals or exceeds the Basic Family Budget for that family type.  So, for instance, retail salespersons constitute the most numerous occupation in New Hampshire; the most recent data show that the median annual wage for such a job is $22,080.[xii]  That wage, in turn, is insufficient to meet the Basic Family Budget for each of the four main family types in the Strafford County-Great Bay Region.  Alternatively, there are 12,390 registered nurses in New Hampshire.  Their median annual wage is $63,820, a level of pay that exceeds those four Basic Family Budgets.

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Such comparisons should not, of course, be taken as definitive.  Median wages simply convey the “typical” wage for that occupation; there can be significant variation in wages even within a single occupation.  Consequently, some workers in an occupation with a comparatively low median wage may still be able to reach their Basic Family Budget.  In addition, the table above is obviously not a comprehensive catalogue of the types of employment available in New Hampshire.  High wage and low wage occupations alike are left out of this listing, along with the prospect of out-of-state employment.  Nevertheless, such comparisons do help to highlight the mismatch between the wages many workers earn and the costs they face for putting food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Conclusion

Whether in the private sector or in the public sphere, statistics can have great value, but they can also fail to depict completely the situations or trends they are intended to illustrate.  New Hampshire’s comparatively low poverty rate is an excellent case in point, as it stands at odds with the economic anxiety many Granite State families continue to experience.  A more robust assessment of basic needs, as embodied in the Economic Policy Institute’s Basic Family Budget calculation, offers a clearer understanding of how much further working families must go in the Granite State just to get by.  In the years ahead, the task before policymakers will be to identify and to implement a combination of reforms to help people make ends meet, both by bolstering incomes and by bringing the costs of basic necessities within closer reach.

For Methodology and Sources click HERE

NH Health Protection Program, aka NH Medicaid Expansion, Moves Forward After Key Vote

Yesterday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives Finance Committee, by a bipartisan 18-8 margin, approved HB 1696, which would reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program through December 2018.

“It is clear that our bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program is getting results for our people and businesses and boosting our economy, while also strengthening our efforts to combat the heroin and opioid crisis and help save lives. The House Finance Committee’s vote is another step forward, and I will continue to work with members of both parties to reauthorize this critical program,” state Governor Maggie Hassan.

“We applaud the House Finance Committee vote in favor of reauthorizing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “The legislators who cast a vote in favor of the legislation are taking a much needed step forward to ensure that the nearly 48,000 Granite Staters currently on the program can continue to have affordable access to preventative and primary care in New Hampshire.”

“At the same time, we ask those few politicians who voted against New Hampshire families to recall the stories of hardworking small business owners who can’t afford health care coverage, and of mothers who are thankful to finally be able to see a doctor about health concerns so that they can be there for their children for years to come, and to reconsider whose side they stand on,” added Rice-Hawkins.

New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch applauded the committee’s decision.

“Today’s vote by the House Finance Committee represents another positive step toward reauthorizing the program for two more years and continuing a successful, unique, and bipartisan approach to promoting health security and fostering economic growth.”

“Many of the Granite Staters who take part in the Health Protection Program work in jobs that are low-paid, but that help keep the New Hampshire economy moving. They provide care to children and to the elderly, build roads and bridges, and staff restaurants and hotels in communities across the state,” added McLynch.

Reauthorizing the NHHPP will also help address the growing opioid addiction problem plaguing our state.

“The program would continue health insurance coverage for nearly 48,000 Granite Staters. Approximately 6,700 of those individuals will likely access treatment services for substance use disorders,” said Linda Saunders Paquette, Executive Director of New Futures. “The New Hampshire Health Protection Program is the single-most important tool NH has to address its drug and alcohol crisis.”

“New Hampshire had the third highest rate of drug induced deaths per capita (100,000 residents) in the United States in 2014. According to an October 2015 poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire, Granite Staters view the opioid crisis as the number one issue facing our state, added Saunders Paquette.

“New Futures’ advocates will be the first to tell you that access to treatment and recovery services are critical to someone physiologically snared by heroin. On behalf of our constituents, New Futures applauds the House Finance Committee for supporting a practical and bipartisan response to our drug and alcohol epidemic,” concluded Saunders Paquette.

Sununu Brags About Efforts To Block Healthcare To 40,000 Granite Staters

Concord, N.H.—Most people wouldn’t brag about their efforts to deny healthcare to poor people. But most people aren’t Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu. 

In an interview on “Girard at Large”, Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu doubled down on his efforts to block Medicaid expansion, bragging, “The legislature is taking up the expanded Medicaid issue, and as a lot of people know I fought for it to not even come to the table two years ago. Because, again, it is one of those things that once you do you cannot undo very easily.” 

Medicaid Expansion in New Hampshire has delivered quality, affordable healthcare to nearly 40,000 hardworking Granite Staters with income levels are just above federal poverty line. Sununu was the only Executive Councilor to oppose New Hampshire’s successful bipartisan Medicaid expansion in 2013, and voted to reject its contract again in 2014. Both of Chris Sununu’s moves failed. 

“That Chris Sununu continues to gloat over his failed efforts to block Medicaid expansion for nearly 40,000 low-income Granite Staters is sickening,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Press Secretary Evan Lukaske. “And the only regret Chris Sununu seems to have is that he won’t be able to ‘easily’ strip the elderly, sick and disabled of their health care if he’s elected to the corner office. New Hampshire deserves better.”

ICYMI: New Business Coalition Forms to Advocate for Granite State Medicaid Expansion

Concord, N.H. – Continuing the steady drumbeat in support of reauthorizing New Hampshire’s successful Medicaid Expansion, the Union Leader reported today that a group of local businesses and business organizations has formed a coalition to advocate for continuing the successful bipartisan program that is reducing the shifting of uncompensated care costs onto families and businesses while boosting the Granite State’s economy. Please see below.

A coalition that includes some businesses and local business groups has formed to advocate for Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire.

ExpandNH has launched a website and plans to advocate for Medicaid expansion from a business perspective, according to a statement released Monday.

The effort includes chambers of commerce in Manchester, Portsmouth and Concord; the for-profit Hospital Corporation of America; the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; and Harvard Pilgrim, said Michelline Dufort, vice president of public affairs at Cookson Strategic Communications, which is organizing and managing the ExpandNH initiative.

It has also shortened the issue into a five-letter abbreviation: MedEX.

“This is an important issue because MedEX is working as it was designed — helping New Hampshire families become and stay healthy while stabilizing health insurance rates for employers and creating savings for taxpayers,” Dufort said in a statement.

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.

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