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New Hampshire Senate votes to expand health insurance

CONCORD, N.H. — The state’s Republican-dominated Senate voted Thursday to expand health care coverage to an estimated 50,000 adults using Medicaid funding made available through the Affordable Care Act.

The bill moves to the House, which has passed similar legislation. Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, praised the bill, calling it “a New Hampshire-specific solution to making sure that we can have health care coverage for working men and women throughout the state who haven’t had it before.”

New Hampshire would join a small group of states, including Arkansas and Iowa, that have opted to expand health care to low-income adults with programs that focus not on expanding their existing Medicaid programs, as 25 other states and Washington, D.C., have done, but on using federal Medicaid money to buy private health insurance.

The bill would allow adults younger than 65 who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $15,900 for a single person, to qualify for coverage. The first phase of the plan covers about 12,000 of those adults through a program that subsidizes employer-based coverage; a second group of about 38,000 would be covered by the state’s existing Medicaid managed-care program in July. Those adults would transition to private health care plans at the beginning of 2016. Federal waivers must be approved for each step to take place.

The program would end in 2016, when the federal government’s required contribution to the plan drops below 100 percent, unless it was reauthorized.

The bill passed 18-5 in the Senate, where a similar measure had failed last fall. Lawmakers said they hoped the delay before putting people on plans in the private exchange would allow more competition to enter the marketplace. The measure’s sunset clause was intended to address concerns about paying for the program when federal contributions to it decreased, but Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Republican who voted against the bill, said it would be challenging politically not to reauthorize the program.

—Jess Bidgood, The New York Times

Facebook’s new gun sale policy h

LONDON — Facebook is clamping down on gun sales on its site.

But what about the social network’s international users, which represent around 80 percent of the company’s roughly 1.1 billion users?

Many reside in countries like Germany and Britain that already have strict gun control laws. Often, they must obtain licenses before buying any type of firearm, and online sales are routinely controlled to avoid guns falling into the wrong hands.

Facebook says the changes, which include blocking minors from viewing pages that advertise guns for sale and deleting posts that bypass gun laws, will apply worldwide.

The social network adds that users must comply with laws in their individual countries. It also will send messages to individuals reminding them of their legal obligations every time Facebook is alerted that a user has posted something that promotes a private sale, including firearms.

The steps have received a mixed response in the United States, where gun control groups and gun advocates have criticized the social network for either not going far enough or infringing on people’s rights.

Despite the U.S. uproar, Facebook’s efforts will probably be even more difficult to enforce for its overseas users.

Because the social network and its photo-sharing app Instagram are not e-commerce sites, they must rely on individuals reporting potential problems, like a user trying to sell a gun to someone in a country with strict fireman laws.

—Mark Scott, The New York Times