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Holcomb joins list of GOP officials opposed to Medicaid cuts

March 13, 2017

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Monday joined a growing chorus of Republicans who are asking the GOP-led Congress to spare Medicaid funding as they go about repealing former President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

Obamacare has been in Republican crosshairs since its inception. And public disapproval of the law, formally called the Affordable Care Act, helped propel the GOP to the commanding majorities they now hold in Congress and many state legislatures.

But 31 states, including Indiana and others under Republican control, also took advantage of increased funding made available through the law to expand state Medicaid programs and cover lower-income people who previously did not have health insurance.

Should Congress move forward on a plan proposed by the House, it could strip much of that money away.

"I want to make sure that we're compassionate and cover the Hoosiers that we are right now," Holcomb said at an unrelated event. "I completely believe we need to fix the Affordable Care Act and (House Republicans') repeal was the right first step. But the devil is always in the details."

Holcomb's comments come the same day that nonpartisan analysts project that 14 million people would lose or choose not to pursue coverage next year under a bill pushed by House bill to dismantle the law. Much of the savings to the federal government would come through cuts to Medicaid, estimated at $880 billion through 2026, according to the analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

The projections give fuel to opponents who warn the measure would toss millions of voters off insurance plans. Criticism has come from Democrats, Republicans from states that benefit from Obama's law and many corners of the health-care industry.

President Donald Trump backs the plan and Republican leaders have said their aim is to lower costs. They say coverage statistics are misleading because many people covered under Obama's law have high out-of-pocket costs that make health care unaffordable.

In addition, the CBO said most of the increase in uninsured Americans would stem from repealing the penalties associated with Obamacare's individual mandate.

But even before the analysis was released, GOP legislative leaders in Indiana warned that many could lose coverage.

"It's reality hitting home," Republican Senate leader Dave Long, of Fort Wayne, said earlier this month. "The issue of the working poor is real. It's not going to be easy."

More than 400,000 poor people in Indiana have health insurance after former Gov. Mike Pence, now the vice president, championed an expansion of Medicaid, which relies on the federal government for at least 90 percent of its funding.

Pence, who is being counted on by Trump to help sell the House plan, is now poised to help unwind one of his legacy achievements as governor if the bill is signed into law.

A Pence spokesman declined to comment.

Holcomb said he understands that there is a pressing need to rein in federal spending, but he said HIP 2.0, the program Pence implemented in Indiana, is working.

"I have not seen a more successful program," Holcomb said. "I don't want to overreact ... but I do think that HIP 2.0 is part of that answer in how our nation can address the issue of health care."

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