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Indiana’s health plan renewed for 2014

Some say Pence’s efforts not enough for uninsured

– Indiana has received a one-year extension of its consumer-driven health insurance program for the working poor.

There are almost 37,000 Hoosiers on the Healthy Indiana Plan who would have lost insurance Jan. 1 without the extension from the federal government.

“I believe that securing the waiver to continue the Healthy Indiana Plan is a victory for Hoosiers enrolled in this innovative program, and it will ensure that Indiana remains in the forefront of consumer-driven health care in the United States,” Gov. Mike Pence said.

But Democrats said Pence is focusing on only a fraction of the uninsured in Indiana.

“To the 37,316 current Healthy Indiana Plan enrollees, today’s announcement comes as a relief. But what of the 10,000 enrollees the governor’s agreement kicks off HIP, or the nearly 53,000 left on waiting lists or the more than 500,000 Hoosiers without access to health care?” asked Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane. “To them, today’s announcement is nothing more than achieving the minimum.”

The Healthy Indiana Plan, funded by a mix of state and federal money, covers some Hoosiers who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy insurance on the open market.

It also requires those participating to share in the cost of the program.

Some changes as part of the extension include shifting almost 11,000 Hoosiers from the state program to new federal health care exchange subsidies.

Debra Minott, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, said these people will not pay more for the subsidies than they are paying on HIP.

Also, the income eligibility threshold with drop significantly, from up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level to up to 100 percent.

This means a family of four making $23,550 is eligible for HIP, compared with the previous maximum of $47,100.

The reason for the change is that many people with incomes over the poverty level are now eligible for subsidized insurance on an exchange.

Another change in the extension allows HIP to grow modestly to about 45,000 enrollees. Right now, 55,000 people are on the waiting list, though it is unclear how many on the list are still in need of insurance.

But Minott said if enrollment nears 45,000, Indiana can return to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and get permission to further reduce the income eligibility guidelines for new enrollees only.

While the extension maintains coverage for HIP participants, the Pence administration has refused to expand its Medicaid program to cover up to 400,000 more Hoosiers. Instead, they want to use HIP for such an expansion.

“I’m hopeful that the federal government continues to recognize HIP as the means to best serve the people of Indiana who need valuable medical services,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville.

But House Democrat Leader Scott Pelath said “the stubbornness demonstrated by this administration on the Affordable Care Act would put a mule to shame, and for no reason at all.

“They continue to be unwilling and unable to do anything to seriously discuss a plan that will assure millions of Hoosier tax dollars return to our state to make health care affordable.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a statement saying “we encourage all states to adopt the Medicaid funding made possible by the Affordable Care Act, which provides 100 percent federal funding for three years and never falls below 90 percent federal funding for people newly eligible for Medicaid.

“We look forward to working with Indiana and all other states in bringing a flexible, state-based approach to Medicaid coverage expansion and encourage the state to explore these options.”

nkelly@jg.net

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