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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Nashua hospital bows out of compromise over Medicaid Enhancement Tax

CONCORD – Legislative negotiators embraced a settlement between Gov. Maggie Hassan and 25 acute-care hospitals on Friday aimed at bringing to an end to lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of a state tax on hospitals.

The lone holdout, St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, still insists the tax is unconstitutional. ...

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CONCORD – Legislative negotiators embraced a settlement between Gov. Maggie Hassan and 25 acute-care hospitals on Friday aimed at bringing to an end to lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of a state tax on hospitals.

The lone holdout, St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, still insists the tax is unconstitutional.

St. Joseph President and CEO Rich Boehler said his health care facility provided $25 million in free or reduced-cost care to patients last year.

“While we appreciate the efforts of all involved to achieve a resolution, the proposal offered by the state of New Hampshire does not address the fundamental flaw as outlined in the two New Hampshire Superior Court rulings earlier this year,” Boehler said in a statement Friday afternoon.

“Taxing hospitals simply because they are hospitals in order to balance the state of New Hampshire budget is unconstitutional.”

Boehler added, “We continue to hope for a positive resolution.”

St. Joseph’s lawsuit challenging the tax will continue.

The final deal agreed to between the state and 25 other hospitals lowers the Medicaid Enhancement Tax slightly to 5.4 percent in mid-2017 from its present 5.5 percent rate.

If hospital spending targets are reached by mid-2018, then the tax would drop to 5.25 percent.

Sen. Robert Odell, R-Lempster, said this was a big reason why he agreed to embrace the final deal.

“Some tax reduction was very important to the Senate,” Odell said.

New Hampshire Hospital Association President Steve Ahnen praised Hassan and legislative leaders from both political parties for spending the last two months trying to reach consensus.

“This agreement will require legislative enactment, but we look forward to working together to implement the provisions of today’s agreement to create a vibrant and sustainable Medicaid program for the patients and communities we serve,” Ahnen said.

Hassan said the compromise gives taxpayers and the health care providers what they need.

“This agreement is fair to the hospitals and to
New Hampshire taxpayers, bringing stability to our budget while ensuring that our hospitals and the state can continue to provide critical health services to our people,” Hassan said.

Two prominent Republican negotiators, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jeannie Forrester, R-Meredith, and Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, refused to sign the agreement.

House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, named Deputy Speaker Naida Kaen, D-Lee, to replace Hess, while Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen, of Concord, signed the deal instead of Forrester.

Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said he had concerns about whether the state could afford increasing the payments to hospitals in the future.

“Over the next few days, as legislators have the opportunity to review this conference report and discuss it with constituents and stakeholders,” Morse said. “I would encourage them to fully consider the bill’s implications for our next budget.”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at
321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).