Ind. lawmakers propose alternative to federal health care expansions

Indiana lawmakers have been discussing the possible expansion of Medicaid called for in the federal government’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”

There are about 400,000 Hoosiers without health insurance who could be in line to receive coverage under the terms of a bill that is now moving through the Indiana State Senate.

However, the bill only expands health insurance coverage within Indiana if, and only if, the state is allowed to do so on its own terms. The state’s terms as spelled out by the proposed bill means Indiana would use its own program instead of Medicaid.

The Medicaid program is unpalatable for many legislators and members of the health care community throughout Indiana. They say that simply expanding Medicaid in the state may not do much good.
“I don't have a single dentist that accepts Medicaid anymore,” said Indiana Sen. Ryan Mischler (R-Bremen).

Sen. Mischler and others have proposed reaching Indiana’s uninsured by expanding what is called the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP).

“Medicaid is all or nothing. You're either on it or you're not, you don't contribute to it, with the Healthy Indiana plan you'd have to contribute something and that's been my concern even if it's a dollar,” Sen. Mischler added.

Individuals on HIP also have to maintain a savings account for health care in addition to establishing a budget. The big question on many people’s minds is whether or not the federal government will buy into this Indiana option.

According to Tony Flora of the AFL-CIO, Indiana would only participate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s expansion of health insurance to low income residents through the state’s HIP option, which may not be acceptable to what the federal program calls for.

At a time when states are being asked if they want to participate in health care reform or not, Indiana legislators seem to be saying “maybe.”

“I think there will be a Medicaid expansion in the end,” said Indiana Sen. John Broden (D-South Bend), “Ohio, Michigan, even in the state of Florida, some governor down there who was very much opposed to the Affordable Care Act, he has seen that this is too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

The federal government has promised to cover the increases in Medicaid costs for the first three years the federal act is in operation. However, some lawmakers are skeptical that such coverage will actually occur.

The proposed Indiana bill passed out of a State Senate committee earlier this week and will go to the floor for further action sometime next week.

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