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Mike Ripley, a health care lobbyist for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, talked about the business group’s views on a proposed expansion of coverage by the Indiana Medicaid program. As it stands now, the 2013 Indiana budget bill includes a plan passed by the Senate as Senate Bill 551, which would have OK’d the Pence administration to negotiate a block grant deal with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand Medicaid coverage via a program like the Healthy Indiana Plan. When that bill was altered in the House to remove the block grant concept, the chamber dropped its support. The altered House bill is now dead, and the original Senate plan has been added to the budget bill. Its ultimate fate is still unknown.

IBJ: Why did the chamber drop its support of SB 551 when the House altered it so it no longer required the state to negotiate a block grant with the government?

A: The inference is that, you’re on the hook for the full expansion, however you do that. And at the end of the day, how do you pay for that? How I’ve interpreted the block grant is, "OK, we’re going to get X amount of dollars and then we expand as much as we can." But without that, it’s pretty much open-ended.

IBJ: Why is an open-ended expansion of Medicaid, which is what President Obama’s health reform law originally called for, a problem—particularly considering that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the expansion costs for three years and then step its support to no less than 90 percent by 2020?

A: Then after 2020, what happens then? Where do you come up with those resources? That’s where we’ve been very concerned from a business perspective. Because who’s going to foot that bill? Employers are.

IBJ: Why do you prefer expanding coverage via the Healthy Indiana Plan, which gives participants a health savings accounts to pay for health care, but also caps enrollment if their use of health care exhausts the state’s allotted revenue for the program?

A: It has better reimbursement [than Medicaid] for doctors and hospitals. And it puts some skin in the game for individuals. I think that’s the best of all worlds. You’re not going to get everybody covered. But it’s something we can cope with financially.

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