New Hampshire municipalities see 'small but significant' savings from Medicaid expansion at local welfare offices

March 24, 2016

Municipal officials across New Hampshire say Medicaid expansion has led to some significant savings in terms of taxpayers' money set aside from medical and prescription aid, and indirect savings in other areas. While it may be hard to draw a straight line between Medicaid expansion and any major shifts in municipal budgets across the state, local welfare officials say there are some tangible impacts, with some seeing a direct connection in a reduction in local general assistance expenditures related to prescription assistance. Initial data from cities and towns across New Hampshire show sharp reductions in the first year of Medicaid expansion. The New Hampshire Municipal Association and the New Hampshire Local Welfare Administrators Association had spoken in favor of extending the program. Cities and towns must provide general assistance to any person in their community who is poor and unable to support him or herself - that assistance is paid for through the local budget and funded by property taxes. While communities across the state calculate their welfare budgets in different ways, the prescription assistance program is one area of consistency across municipalities. As a portion of a city or town's welfare budget, the prescription assistance program can be relatively small. The Town of Merrimack saw its prescription assistance expenses decrease from $1,119 the year before Medicaid expansion to $386 the year after, which officials say can spur other savings at the local level. Lawmakers are now deciding whether to extend the program beyond the end of 2016, at which point the federal government will start paying a smaller share of the costs.