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Furthermore …

Jackson
McCarthy
File

State shoots from HIP on health coverage …

A legislative committee hearing this past week didn’t relieve concerns about Indiana’s preparedness for new federal health care deadlines. As coverage for Americans elsewhere is about to expand, low-income Hoosiers might be left with none.

Debra Minott, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, offered an update on the agency’s efforts to the General Assembly’s Health Finance Commission. She said state officials met with federal officials and discussed their intention to extend the Healthy Indiana Plan.

A federal waiver must be given for Indiana to use HIP in lieu of expanded Medicaid coverage. About 40,000 Hoosiers are covered by HIP, with another 50,000 on a waiting list.

When asked abut a contingency plan if the federal government doesn’t approve the waiver, Minott admitted there is none, suggesting the state’s safety net will suffice.

“I don’t think we can assume that those programs can just absorb additional people,” Rep. Ed Clere, a New Albany Republican, said of community health centers and free clinics around the state. “We need to know that the capacity is available.”

He added that even if the health centers and clinics can handle the demand, he wasn’t sure that was the direction the state should take.

“At some point we’ve got to make a decision in this state and we’ve got to choose what we’re going to do, and then we’ve got to follow it through and execute it,” said Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis. “And we just don’t seem to be close to making any of those essential decisions.”

Gov. Mike Pence’s administration is taking a big gamble with its HIP expansion plan, leaving 400,000 Hoosiers at risk of losing out on health coverage for a year. If the state opted to join others in expanding Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, it could collect an estimated $10 billion in federal support through 2020.

…as care plan debuts

Health care coverage isn’t the only area where state officials have been stalling. It took a hearing ordered by a federal judge to learn how the Indiana Department of Correction will comply with her order to improve the treatment of inmates with mental illness.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt scheduled last Wednesday’s hearing after the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a complaint alleging the state wasn’t taking the judge’s Dec. 31 order seriously.

Pratt ruled at that time that locking nearly 5,000 inmates with mental illness in their cells without adequate treatment was a violation of their constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

No details of DOC’s compliance plan were available until the hearing, when state officials presented a plan to move all of the system’s inmates with serious mental illness to the correctional facility at Pendleton, northeast of Indiana. A cell unit at the prison must be renovated to accommodate the move, and more mental health specialists will need to be hired.

EPA choice has all the answers

Congressional lawmakers are dragging out the interview process for Gina McCarthy to historic lengths. Friday marked 134 days since Lisa Jackson departed as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and 116 days since President Barack Obama nominated McCarthy to head the agency. The delay is a historic length of time for the EPA to go without a leader.

McCarthy, who has previously served in environmental regulatory positions under five Republican governors, already has answered 1,120 questions during the confirmation process – including 1,079 from Republicans. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican representing Louisiana, asked more than 650 questions.

The number of questions she fielded is nearly four times more than any previous nominee has faced. Lawmakers should approve the eminently qualified candidate soon.

A tip for all you diners

Please, remember to tip your waiters and waitresses well. A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows they likely need the money.

According to the study, the average pay of restaurant CEOs is 788 times higher than the minimum wage most restaurant workers earned in 2012. A restaurant employee working full-time for a full year earned $15,080, compared to the $11.884 mil- lion average pay for a CEO in the restaurant or hospitality business. The CEOs earned more in one morning than their workers earned over an entire year.

Meanwhile, The National Restaurant Association, the trade group representing the well-heeled CEOs, has vehemently lobbied against any increase in the minimum wage.

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