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Leaders await decision on Indiana Plan expansion

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Two of the state's top Republican lawmakers said Tuesday that they would like to see the federal government sign off on an expansion of Medicaid through the state's health care plan for low-income residents, but they added that they have little idea how soon that could happen.

U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon and state Rep. Tim Brown of Crawfordsville, who are both physicians, said they would like to see the Department of Health and Human Services approve the expansion being sought by Gov. Mike Pence through the Healthy Indiana Plan. They also said they would like to see the federal government be more flexible in how it lets states use Medicaid money.

The two made their comments at the Statehouse during part of a statewide tour.

Pence secured a one-year extension of the state program last year. But the bigger question is whether the state will be allowed to expand coverage for those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

"We continue to have regular, productive discussions with HHS on an expansion of the Healthy Indiana Plan with an eye toward an updated waiver request by the State in the near future," Pence communications director Christy Denault said.

Indiana is one of many Republican-led states that have opted against expanding traditional Medicaid under the federal health reform law. Bucshon, who represents the 8th District, said such an expansion leaves states on the hook for major costs in the future.

"I'm glad the governor's office is still in negotiations with the federal government on the Healthy Indiana Plan. I was a part of that during Gov. (Mitch) Daniels' tenure and still am, and we'll see where that goes," Bucshon said. He added the departure of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius could work in the state's favor.

"I think with Ms. Sebelius gone, maybe the next secretary will have more of an open mind," he said.

The expanded state-run plan would cost the state about the same as using Medicaid, but Republican leaders argue the state plan promotes personal responsibility.

Democrats have been roundly critical of the Republican efforts, dubbing Indiana an "island of the uninsured" because neighboring states such as Ohio and Illinois accepted the Medicaid expansion.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said that Republican inaction on expanding health care coverage is costing the creation of tens of thousands of jobs and coverage for as many as 400,000 working Hoosiers.

"Let's quit playing politics with the issue of Hoosiers' health and get to work on creating a framework to expand coverage today," Lanane said.

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  • Evidence
    See the Indiana Hospital Association's page for evidence about the jobs that could be created by accepting over $10 billion in federal funding: http://www.expandincoverage.org/ They cite studies from the University of Nebraska, the academic journal Health Affairs, and tax firm Jackson Hewitt regarding the impact on jobs from this policy.
  • HIP Is A Loser!
    HIP is a joke. My stepdaughter has been waiting for over 2 years to get into the plan. This is an ideological issue for Pence who wants to feather his nest by getting HHS to buy off on this woefully inadequate plan. Meanwhile, thousands continue without health care. For this reason alone, I would never vote for Pence.
  • Democratic Bluster
    Where is the evidence that inaction on expanding Medicaid is costing Indiana thousands of jobs? Lanane gives no proof of his numbers. Furthermore, what have Democrats done in Indiana to allow businesses to expand or move here? It's states with Republican governors that are leading the nation in job growth and lower unemployment. Expanding a broken system is not the solution to providing access to healthcare. If the Health & Human Services department would stop denying our state gov't the right to expand HIP, we wouldn't have this problem. Furthermore, you have no right to question Republicans' motives in this matter.
    • Think, Please
      Please think about your comment: do you truly think the Republicans in charge of our state care anything about the poor, or even the working poor? Those aren't individuals or corporations who can fatten the monetary larders of the politicians...
    • HIP is horrible
      Tens of thousands that qualified in the old program were stuck in wait lists. GOPs keeps fiddling while poor working people are left without health care.

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