Contact: John Clayton
Vice President for Communications

By Steve Ahnen
Special to The Monitor

CONCORD - Earlier this month, our nation celebrated its 236th birthday.

One of the hallmarks of our enduring democracy is the right of our citizens to vote. It is a right that our forefathers have fought for and died to preserve. In November, those of us who are eligible to vote will have the opportunity to vote for candidates for President of the United States on down to the House of Representatives, Governor and those seeking a seat in the General Court here in New Hampshire.

As Americans, we not only have a right, but an obligation, to be engaged citizens and exercise our right to vote in the coming elections. It is what makes democracy work, and it's what has made New Hampshire such a unique and special place over the years. Whether it's the way our communities have come together for years to govern themselves through town meetings, our "first in the nation" presidential primary or our "citizen" legislature, New Hampshire residents are actively involved in governing our affairs.

This year's election will be more important for the future of our state and our nation than in recent memory. The issues and challenges we face are numerous and our success will depend on how we solve these important issues. We don't pretend to have all of the answers, but we do know that an active, engaged and knowledgeable citizenry is essential to finding lasting solutions to the challenges we face.

The New Hampshire Hospital Association has recently launched a non-partisan campaign called "We Care... We Vote" to encourage the thousands of employees at our member hospitals to become active participants in both the September primary election and in the general election come November.

It doesn't matter to us whether these healthcare employees are liberal, conservative or middle-of-the-road. What matters is that they become engaged in the process and at the same time, engage in conversation with the candidates regardless of the office they seek.

Healthcare issues are going to be front and center for everyone who assumes elective office at both the federal and state level, and we are asking hospital employees – and those countless volunteers and trustees who support our hospitals – to find out how candidates respond to important questions such as:

 • How will you ensure that NH citizens will continue to have access to high quality health care services?

 • What are your ideas for solving the health care challenges facing patients, businesses and providers alike?

 • How will you ensure that financing for the Medicaid program is sound and sustainable now and into the future?

 • How will you work toward stabilizing the cost of health insurance premiums in the face of cost-shifting government   payment shortfalls to private insurance?

Medicaid is a shared federal and state responsibility to assist low-income poor and disabled individuals receive access to health care, yet in New Hampshire, hospitals are reimbursed, on average, less than 50 percent of the actual cost of treating a Medicaid patient. This is the lowest Medicaid hospital reimbursement in the country, and the situation is so dire that it prompted 10 hospitals to file a lawsuit against the State in Federal Court and the chief Medicaid regulator in Washington recently suggested that they may begin a compliance action against the State if it is determined that New Hampshire's Medicaid program is deficient.

Answers may soon be forthcoming in that lawsuit or from Federal regulators, but in the meantime – especially in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act – there are fundamental questions to be asked of all candidates.

We need voters to ask these and other questions and for candidates to share their views on how we can solve these challenges. We will need people of good will from all parts of the political spectrum to work together to best serve the needs of New Hampshire's citizens.

It's been said that a politician thinks of the next election, but a statesman thinks of the next generation. Thinking voters are a vital part of that same equation, and given the scope of the healthcare issues that confront us as a state and as a nation, the NHHA is committed to bringing an active, informed and engaged population into the debate.

(Steve Ahnen is the President of the New Hampshire Hospital Association)