Lakeshore News Tonight

State’s Healthcare, Medicaid Policy to Get Sebelius, Pence Review

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December 18, 2013 – by Hilary Powell

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is fighting to keep Indiana’s consumer–driven health coverage, though some advocates say it’s a move in the wrong direction.

Pence has announced plans to meet with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about Indiana’s low-income resident health coverage plan.

One Hoosier health group says the state could save money and cover more residents by axing the plan the Governor supports, saying healthy Hoosiers equal a healthy economy.

That is the message advocacy group, Covering Kids and Families Indiana, wants state lawmakers to hear.

The group recently held a rally at the Indiana Statehouse to encourage legislators to support switching to Medicaid as the state’s primary coverage for low-income residents.

The group’s Deputy Director of Policy Paul Chase says, “Many legislators still need more information about what the stakes are. They need to hear from their constituents about, you know, what this means to me as a constituent, and I think it’s really an educational piece to show there is a lot of support to do the right thing and get more legislators actively involved in the discussions.”

Chase says there’s economic incentive to take the fully federally-funded Medicaid option.  He touts a 2013 brief by University of Nebraska’s Center for Health Policy that says federal money will generate $108-million in state and local tax revenue annually, while adding newly insured Hoosiers.

Cover Indiana advocates also argue the state’s current healthy Indiana plan for residents living below the federal poverty level leaves more than 350,000 Hoosiers in a coverage gap.

Chase says, “I think they are going to be waking up very soon to the proposition that there’s no viable alternative for them in terms of health insurance coverage.  They don’t qualify for Medicaid now, and they’re too poor to really afford coverage on the health insurance marketplace, and they’re also below 100% of the federal poverty level, so they don’t qualify for any of the subsidies that otherwise would be available.”

While the Affordable Care Act gives Indiana the option to forego Medicaid, Hammond-based state senator Frank Mrvan says the state’s Healthy Indiana Plan program is not the right replacement, “We should be going with the Affordable Health Plan instead of the plan that’s been put forth because we’ll be losing out on millions and millions of dollars.”

Officials with Cover Indiana say they plan to rally at the Statehouse once more on January 5, 2014 when the general assembly is set to reconvene.

Pence says he’s still weighing coverage options.  In a letter sent to the state Kathleen Sebelius, the Obama Administration’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, agreed to meet with Governor Pence in February for further discussions.

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