Health Care Vitals: New Hampshire

On Thursday, August 18, Axios hosted an Expert Voices roundtable discussion in Manchester, New Hampshire featuring local health care leaders, policymakers and medical experts. Guests offered their perspectives on combating barriers to health care access and proposed solutions for bridging equity gaps. Axios’s senior health care editor Adriel Bettelheim led the conversation.

How local policymakers are thinking about tackling a potential jump in the state’s uninsured rate, as a redetermination of Medicaid eligibility could be postponed.

State Rep. Mark Pearson speaking to fellow attendees.

State Rep. Mark Pearson speaking to fellow attendees. Photo: Stephen Duarte/Axios

Sen. Tom Sherman, a New Hampshire state senator and Democratic candidate for governor, said that Medicaid expansion is up for reauthorization in the next legislative session, but there is no guarantee that local lawmakers will reauthorize it.

  • “This could compound the calamity. We really are not well positioned to pick up that level of uninsured … it is really critical that we inform not just the public, but the legislature about how impactful this will be.”

Rep. Mark Pearson, a Republican member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and chair of the Health & Human Services Committee, said both sides would need to work together and compromise in order to secure bipartisan action in the legislature on this issue.

  • “I think we all know there is going to be some kind of red tide [in 2022]. I am going to try to continue to figure out who is with me as a compassionate person. And I’m going to continue to say before I introduce your bill to my committee, we’re going to have to make it so that it could possibly pass. So I’m a bit optimistic in that way.”

Experts weigh in on the social and economic disparities in health care that were heightened over the last two years and the danger of ‘moving on’ from the pandemic.

Dr. Trinidad Tellez speaking to the Axios roundtable group.

Dr. Trinidad Tellez speaking to the Axios roundtable group. Photo: Stephen Duarte/Axios

Dr. Trinidad Tellez, principal at [Health] Equity Strategies, expressed concern about the rate of new COVID-19 infections in Manchester and the disproportionate impact on communities of color.

  • “We will continue to see worsening disparities … I probably know about ten people in the last week who have gotten COVID. It is very worrisome. If there is a central reporting hotline, I’m not sure I know what it is. Our numbers are way worse than what we believe they are.”

Pamela Preston, associate professor at St. Anselm College, said she agrees with Dr. Tellez.

  • “Initially, we did a very good job of having the vaccine readily available to marginalized communities and it was really due to boots on the ground. We had to find people who were part of that community, who were trustworthy, and then bring the vaccine into those communities … we are not doing that anymore.”

Dr. Marie-Elizabeth Ramas, regional medical director at GateHouse Treatment Center, said combating medical misinformation continues to be an obstacle when it comes to bridging equity gaps in health care.

  • “The vast majority of the public gets their information from social media and from various media sources…we also know that patients that have the highest likelihood of changing their mind regarding vaccination are those that have a trusted doctor/patient relationship.”

Guests respond to obstacles stopping Medicaid recipients from receiving dental benefits.

Jessica Margeson, project outreach coordinator at 603 Legal Aid, said she hopes more dentists come to practice in New Hampshire and accept Medicaid coverage.

  • “We hope that more [dentists] will accept Medicaid. We only have a few dentists in the state … there’s not many choices … there’s not much access … the problem is huge.”

Tom Raffio, president & CEO of Northeast Delta Dental, delivered opening remarks at the event, and spoke about their mission to expand dental coverage to as many Americans as possible and to address other social determinants.

  • “Everybody deserves a healthy smile. Not just people with traditional dental coverage … we’re really here today from a population health perspective, but we get involved with a lot of things … early learning, childcare, we know that the workforce is so important because we have a shortage of hygienists and sometimes they’re not coming back to the dental office because their kids are at home.”

Thank you Delta Dental for sponsoring this event.

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