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Indiana Democrats raise alarm bells on Medicaid cuts

March 16, 2017

Indiana House leaders are differing on how concerned lower-income Hoosiers need to be as Republicans in Congress look to cut Medicaid spending as they seek to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and replace it with their own health care plan.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he is staying in touch with Indiana’s congressional delegation regarding the American Health Care Act, which would cut an estimated $880 billion from Medicaid through 2026.

Indiana is one of 32 states that have expanded the Medicaid program through the Affordable Care Act, better known known as Obamacare. The HIP 2.0 program covers about 400,000 low-income Indiana residents.

"I’m not worried,” Bosma said. “Depending on the path that Congress takes with the American Health Care Act, it could impact our funding mechanisms here and perhaps eligibility for the program. We just don’t know enough yet to react. We’re going to have to see what happens with the bill and keep our eyes peeled."

But House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, has led the state's Democrats in writing a letter this week to the congressional delegation expressing “deep concerns” and urging lawmakers to slow the process.

"The results of this bill could be dire to many of our people,” according to the letter. "We have met few Hoosiers who want to lose their health care coverage, see Medicare slashed, endure health care job losses, or see family members suffer needlessly."

If Medicaid is cut, Pelath expressed doubt in Indiana Republicans’ plans to increase the state cigarette tax to fill a hole in the budget created by the road-funding plan because revenue might be needed for rising health care costs.

“If they had any illusions about using that new planned cigarette tax revenue to backfill shortfalls in their desires for transportation spending, they’re probably going to have to back off of that,” Pelath said. “If the cigarette tax is going to be increased in any way, there has to be a firm allocation of those dollars to health care needs."

The Democrats’ letter also is pointed toward Vice President Mike Pence. The HIP 2.0 program was one of his big accomplishments as Indiana governor.

"We would hope that Vice President Pence, not long removed from our state, would be the first person in Washington, D.C., to understand the serious implications that could threaten this landmark of our state’s healthcare policy,” the letter reads.

Meanwhile, Indiana’s new governor seems to be ringing the alarm bell about the program.

In comments made on Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb said while he wants to fix problems with the Affordable Care Act, he wants to “make sure we’re compassionate and cover the Hoosiers that we are right now.”

"I have not seen a more successful program," Holcomb said as reported by the Associated Press. "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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