Holcomb not ruling out tax increase if GOP cuts Medicaid

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is not ruling out a tax increase should congressional Republican efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law result in cuts to Medicaid, which funds the state's HIP 2.0 program.

The Republican said Thursday that he is "willing to entertain all sorts of decisions that will be difficult." His remark came after was asked specifically about raising taxes to pay for health care.

Whether Republicans in Washington, D.C., can muster enough support to replace Obama's law is far from certain, despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the presidency.

After previous effort failed, the Senate on Thursday was preparing legislation dubbed the "skinny repeal." It would leave many provisions of Obama's law in place while eliminating the health insurance mandate, as well as a tax on medical devices.

But the likelihood of that bill passing was in doubt. And even if it does, the Senate must reconcile any differences between their bill and a more expansive measure passed by the House in May, which would likely require another difficult vote in both chambers.

Indiana's HIP 2.0 program, which was established by Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana's governor, relies on the federal government for at least 90 percent of its funding and insures more than 400,000 low-income people in Indiana. However, Pence has since pushed legislation that could have slashed funding for the program, which has been touted as a Republican alternative to "Obamacare."

Holcomb for months has ducked questions about the impact various GOP efforts could have on the state's Medicaid funding, though outside estimates on previous bills indicated the state stood to lose billions. He has instead called for the federal government to give the states more flexibility in how they spend their Medicaid dollars. Still, many of his policy priorities, such as expanded drug treatment, would be jeopardized if Medicaid were cut.

"The subject matter changes by the minute or every day. And so when folks are asking about financial price tags on this bill or that bill, it's somewhat moot," Holcomb said Thursday. "If we are given more control, I acknowledge there will be more responsibility—it could be fiscal."

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