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The legislative session runs from January through June each year with upwards of 1,000 bills that get introduced. The 2019 legislative session was also a year that the two-year state budget gets developed so there were multiple budget hearings that took place in addition to the other bills. There were a few key pieces of legislation that we followed closely on topics including oral health care, mental health and developmental disability dual diagnosis and work force challenges. Take a look below for more information on these bills.
Every two years the state of New Hampshire votes on a new budget. In the 2019 legislative session, the budget that was being worked on was for Fiscal Years 2020-2021. The House had three separate public hearings and the Senate had two public hearings. Together, hundreds of people attended more than 15+ hours of public testimony. more than seventy people spoke on the impacts of the budget to the developmental disability system of supports and services. In addition, more than ninety people testified on the work force challenges that are impacting our state.
The NH House and Senate passed a budget to send to the Governor after hours of work through the Committee of Conference. The budget was vetoed by the Governor in June. NH is operating on a continuing resolution budget for the months of July, August and September. We are continuing to work closely with our elected officials to share the impact on the individuals that we support with no budget signed into law.
To stay up to date on where the budget is, you can visit the general court website below.
SB 86 was signed into law in the 2019 legislative session. The analysis of the bill indicates that this bill "establishes a commission to study programs for serving individuals with psychiatric diagnoses and/or high risk behaviors; including criminal behaviors, who are being served in New Hampshire's developmental services system." This is an opportunity to bring professionals together to discuss the programs available for individuals with certain developmental and mental health disabilities and identify gaps or challenges with serving their needs. The commission is charged with identifying programs available, reviewing data including how many people are served by the developmental services system. that have a psychiatric diagnoses and/or high risk or criminal behaviors and identify additional supports and services that are needed. The commission will begin meeting in mid-September with a report due no later than November 30, 2019.
SB 308 was a bill that addressed many issues including a rate increase to Medicaid providers and allowing for electronic background checks to take place. This bill asked for a 5% rate increase in the first fiscal year and a 7% rate increase in the second fiscal year. The bill was "laid on the table" by the Senate, however, the advocacy efforts did not stop there. A Health Care Work Force Coalition was formed and the need for a rate increase has been advocated through press conferences, op-eds, letters to the editor and coalition meetings. The Senate, House and the Governor recognize the need for a rate increase to developmental services and are committed to providing it. The plan is to incorporate it into the budget, when the budget is passed. The committee of conference budget included a Medicaid rate increase of 3.1% in the first year and an additional 3.1% in the second.
The NH Medicaid program does not require managed care organizations to offer a preventative oral health care benefit for adults on Medicaid. There were many people who attended, testified, wrote letters or called their legislators urging them to support this critical bill. This bill removes the language that prohibits the Medicaid managed care organizations from offering a dental benefit to recipients, but currently does not mandate them to offer such benefit. In addition, the bill requires the Commissioner of DHHS to establish a work group that will develop a value-based dental benefit for Medicaid recipients.