Black Lawmakers Call For Medicaid Expansion
January 27, 2015 — TheStatehouseFile.com
INDIANAPOLIS – Black lawmakers said Monday the state should expand Medicaid as called for by the federal Affordable Care Act rather than trying to develop its own insurance program for poor Hoosiers.
Gov. Mike Pence is waiting for word about his proposed Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 – a replacement for an expansion of traditional Medicaid – and could make an announcement about its approval in a speech scheduled for Tuesday.
But members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus said the state has been waiting too long to provide care to low-income Hoosiers. The issue is part of a larger agenda the caucus unveiled Monday.
“Other states have gone ahead and adopted the Affordable Care Act,” said Rep. Charlie Brown of Gary, the ranking Democrat on the House Public Health Committee. “But we are hesitant because of the philosophy of the governor that individuals should participate financially in that.”
Pence wants to change and expand the state’s existing Healthy Indiana Plan in place of a Medicaid expansion. The plan requires participants to contribute financially to the program, a provision the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration has opposed. The Pence administration and federal officials have been in talks about the plan since July.
Pence hoped the decision would be made in time to launch the plan Jan. 1. That didn’t happen.
The black caucus said that while Pence “dawdles on an expansion” of the Healthy Indiana Plan, thousands of Hoosiers have gone without care.
“We cannot afford to wait any longer,” Brown said.
Pence has scheduled a speech for 10 a.m. at the St. Vincent Ruth Lilly Conference Center at the Marten House, 1801 W. 86th Street, in Indianapolis. The governor’s office has not said what the speech will be about but it will be broadcast live online at http://webinar.isl.in.gov/indiana/.
On Monday, the black caucus chairman, Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, laid out several other proposals regarding education, economic development, and criminal and social justice.
Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said, “A lot of the eyes will be on education” this session. She said the state needs to boost funding for school foundation grants, which are the floor on which funding is based.
“If we increase the foundation dollars then all schools – whether you’re public, private, whatever – will get the money that they need,” said Rogers.
Rogers has authored a bill that would require that public schools provide materials at no cost to students. Rogers said that if the education system is going to ask students to do more, that those students should be provided with the tools to do so.
Along with health care and education, members of the caucus have authored bills about bias-motivated crimes, racial profiling, school discipline, small business and even a bill that would establish a commission with the hopes of attracting a professional sports franchise to northwest Indiana.
“We’re hopeful that a lot of the areas we’re concerned with will at least have some dialogue some discussions about and will hopefully be passed in terms of bills,” Randolph said.
[Photo of Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary joins Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary at an Indiana Black Legislative Caucus event Monday. Photo from TheStatehouseFile.com]