New Hampshire's Health and Human Services Oversight Committee approved agency Commissioner John Stephen's proposed Medicaid reform waiver by a 5-2 vote Tuesday, a day after Gov. John Lynch rejected it. State law requires Stephen to approach the Legislative Fiscal Committee next, but he said he might send the waiver request to the Bush administration pending the panel's future support.
Stephen has agreed to dilute his waiver by striking several provisions that would have cut off Medicaid benefits for the disabled who tried to transfer assets to an unrelated third party to qualify for government-paid healthcare. Opponents of those provisions, including the New Hampshire Hospital Association, the state chapter of the AARP and the New Hampshire Children's Alliance, accused Stephen of going beyond what the Legislature had specifically allowed him to pursue in reforming Medicaid. Stephen said the changes had been in the "spirit" of new state laws, but he agreed to bow to the objections.
Lynch sent the waiver request back to Stephen on Monday and proposed an amendment to allow more residents to qualify for a hardship and exempt them from a ban on the sale of homes or property for less than market value within five years of entering a nursing home. "The lack of protection for people was the governor's greatest concern," said Lynch's spokeswoman Pamela Walsh.
Federal officials have never approved a state's Medicaid waiver that lacked the support of the home state's governor.