Nurses issue call to action on Medicaid
PLYMOUTH — As New Hampshire legislators gear up for a special session on Nov. 7, citizens are working to help make their decision an easy one.
Gov. Maggie Hassan called for the session on Wednesday after receiving the state Executive Council’s vote of approval to do so. As a result, the legislature will convene next month to make a decision on whether or not to expand Medicaid.
Though the meeting is still weeks away, New Hampshire citizens are already making efforts to sway the vote in favor of a Medicaid expansion.
To help spread the word, the New Hampshire Nurses Association hosted a call to action event Friday afternoon at Plymouth State University. NHNA members, nurses and Friends of the Grafton County Drug Court shared their individual messages with students, faculty and other citizens about why the expansion is so important to the granite state.
RN and PSU professor Sandra McBournie served as the self-proclaimed “moderator” for the event, and was the first to reiterate the reason for the gathering.
“We are speaking out in support of providing Medicaid,” McBournie said.
Currently, the state’s Medicaid program covers medical care and treatment for lowincome families, and extends to children, parents, pregnant women, people with disabilities and the elderly.
Early in October, members of the state legislator recommended an expansion of the program.
If passed, Medicaid would extend to include residents under 65 who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. It would also expand Medicaid to include single adults earning roughly $15,000 annually and families of four who earn $32,500 a year. All in all, the expansion would cover over 50,000 citizens who are currently uninsured.
At Friday’s event, the presenters shared firsthand accounts of the need for Medicaid expansion, and urged the audience to help stress the importance of its passing. Each of the people who took to the lectern were able to cite numerous instances where patients had denied or simply re- frained from treatment due to cost and lack of coverage, only to wind up much more sickly down the road.
Maggie Pritchard, executive director of Genesis Behavioral Health, began her plea by commending the state’s recent recommendation of the program before presenting her call to arms.
“The time is now to take action,” she said. “Tens of thousands of people are trapped in this system, unable to get help or treatment.
Medicaid expansion offers the state a chance to fix this.”
Pritchard recalled a meeting with the governor and another health official wherein she had shared a story about a man who had lost his job, become depressed, and was now at risk of losing his home. The man refused offered treatment, Pritchard said that, because of the cost, he couldn’t afford it and still provide food and shelter for his wife and child.
“People shouldn’t have to make that kind of decision,” Pritchard said. “I’d rather have someone waiting in line saying yes to treatment than walking away and losing their life.”
Barbara McElroy, RN, took her turn next.
“Every human being has a fundamental right to healthcare,” she said. “That’s not true in this country.”
McElroy explained that one of the biggest problems currently plaguing America is the fact that medical care isn’t provided until it’s too late — at which time, McElroy noted, the cost of care is at its highest.
“There are 45,000 deaths a year associated with a lack of health insurance,” she said. “Eighteen percent of the GDP is spent on healthcare, yet we are in last place when compared to similar countries.
“New Hampshire can’t fix national healthcare, but it can help with expanding Medicaid,” McElroy said. “Contact your legislators about this important issue.”
Millie Sattler, RN at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, said that the issue boils down to be very simple. She likened the situation to ignoring a flat tire on a car, saying that initial treatment lessens the overall necessity and scope of additional treatment.
“Pay now or pay later,” Sattler said flatly. “Now is preventative.”