The number of uninsured people showing up in New Hampshire emergency rooms continues to drop, a trend hospital officials attribute to the state's expanded Medicaid program.
Under the plan lawmakers passed last year, adults making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit - about $15,900 a year - are eligible for Medicaid. More than 39,000 have signed up since enrollment began July 1.
The New Hampshire Hospital Association says that between April 2014 and March 2015, the number of emergency room patients without insurance dropped 22 percent compared to the previous year, while the total number of patients increased 3 percent.
The number of uninsured patients admitted to hospitals also decreased by close to 28 percent, while the total number of hospital admissions dropped by less than 1 percent.
The association's president, Steve Ahnen, said those numbers show that the expansion is working by reducing the costs that businesses and those with insurance pay to care for the uninsured. New Hampshire hospitals provided more than $425 million in such uncompensated care in 2013.
The state received a federal waiver in March to allow the use of federal Medicaid funds to buy private health coverage under the expanded program, which is projected to cost $340 million a year when fully implemented and would use 100 percent federal funding through 2017. Coverage will end if federal funding drops below 100 percent and ends regardless at the end of 2016 if the Legislature doesn't reauthorize it.
During budget negotiations last week, Republican senators said they would rather debate reauthorizing the program next year when more information is available about how it's working.