By Brigid Curtis Ayer
INDIANAPOLIS — Improved access to healthcare coverage for low income Hoosiers is not only the right thing to do morally, but a new study shows could likely be very good for Hoosier economic development.
Two Hoosier legislative panels approved legislation to expand healthcare coverage for low income Hoosiers in the House and Senate Feb. 13. The proposed legislation closes a gap between Obamacare coverage and Medicaid eligibility provided by Indiana. The Church supports the expansion.
Indiana Catholic Conference Executive Director Glenn Tebbe, who serves as the official spokesman and public policy watchdog on state and federal issues for the Catholic Church in Indiana, testified Feb. 13 in support of healthcare expansion before both the House and Senate panels.
“The Church’s approach to healthcare is shaped by a fundamental principle that every person has a right to adequate healthcare. This right comes from the fact that every human being has dignity because human life is created in the image of God,” said Tebbe. “Since 1917, the Catholic bishops in the United States have consistently called for access to quality and affordable life-giving healthcare for all in a manner that respects life and religious freedom. As universal as our Church is Pope Benedict even talked about the importance of healthcare at a meeting with healthcare workers and indicated that good healthcare needs to be defended and achieved for all people not just for those who can afford it.
“The Indiana Catholic Conference supports making healthcare more readily available and affordable to all Hoosiers,” said Tebbe. “At its core, healthcare choices are not just political, or economic, or technical, they are really a moral choice. They are about life and death. Because of the moral imperative, we support the author and others who are seeking to provide for these families and individuals. We ask all legislators to work together for a solution.”
Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, author of the HB 1591 to expand healthcare coverage said, “House Bill 1591 is an attempt to cover hundreds of thousands of more Hoosiers in a responsible fashion. It is a proposal that raises expectations for accountability across the entire Indiana Medicaid program and requires a cost-sharing for all folks who would be eligible under the expansion.
“Indiana has been at the forefront of innovation in Medicaid by seeking high-quality care paired with an ongoing focus on cost-savings while seeking to ensure program members understand the cost of the care they receive. Personal responsibility is the cornerstone of Hoosier values and that we should all have skin in the game when it comes to healthcare,” said Clere.
“This proposal takes the best ideas from programs we have created so far and applies them to Medicaid members with the greatest need and also the highest costs,” said Clere.
A similar proposal, SB 551, authored by Sen. Patricia L. Miller, R-Indianapolis, passed the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee, which Miller chairs, and was recommitted to Senate Appropriations. Both the House and Senate healthcare expansion measures received hours of testimony.
The Medicaid expansion proposals aim to cover low income Hoosiers who have an estimated annual income between $5,000 and $35,000. Clere said the state has estimated there are 300,000 to 500,000 uninsured Hoosiers in this income category who would be helped by the healthcare coverage expansion proposal.
Tim Kennedy, representing the Indiana Hospital Association (IHA), testified in support of the expansion calling the plan an “opportunity to bring taxes we are already paying to the federal government, back to Indiana.”
A 2013 study conducted by the University of Nebraska’s Medical Center for Health Policy, commissioned by IHA, indicated a Medicaid expansion in Indiana could generate $3.4 billion in economic activity and finance 30,000 jobs for Indiana through the year 2020. These funds could result in at least $108 million in additional local and state tax revenue.
In addition to the ICC, David Sklar of the Jewish Community Relations Council, and Mike Oles III, representing the United Methodist Church of Indiana Conference supported the measure on moral grounds. Representatives from the medical community support the expansion. Dr. Aaron Carroll, associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research of I.U. School of Medicine, said he supports the expansion because research shows that Medicaid improves the health of uninsured Hoosiers, and expansion allows medical providers to recoup some of their loss for unreimbursed medical care they provide. Leaders from the business sector testified in support of the expansion including Mike Ripley, representing the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
Gov. Pence and Republican lawmakers have indicated they do not want to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act unless they can do so with their current homespun Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), and Hoosier Healthwise (HHW) Programs which provide member accountability and co-pays. To do so, Indiana must get federal approval from the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration (HHS.) Indiana awaits federal approval.
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