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Editorial columns


HIP fails test of simple human decency

Leaving Hoosiers uninsured discredits Pence’s leadership

Obamacare is a step, not the step I had hoped for or worked for. But the expansion of Medicaid in this state is the only step available to us now that enables at least 182,000 Hoosiers access to a doctor or treatment when he or she is sick.

That total is a conservative estimate of the number of people caught between the current eligibility requirements for Medicaid and the cost of the private health insurance plans available on the exchanges under the new health care law. In a singular executive decision, Gov. Mike Pence excluded this number of Indiana citizens from access to health care when they are sick.

Pence continues to insist that Indiana be allowed to expand the current Healthy Indiana Plan that has a “power account” that acts similarly to an annual deductible. Until one pays out-of-pocket health care costs of $1,500 annually, HIP does not kick in. The rationale for Pence’s insistence on HIP (which, by the way, does not meet the federal standards of the new health care law) is that Pence thinks each of us should have some responsibility for our own health care. As he so inartfully phrases it, each of us should have “skin in the game.”

Pence, who as governor earns $95,000 a year and whose health insurance is at least partially funded by taxes paid by these very Hoosiers he wants to exclude, should know that many of these 182,000 folks don’t have enough “skin” to pay for the necessities of rent, food, car fare, gas or child care.

In case Pence forgot, many Hoosiers are having a rough time finding a job. Many of these 182,000 Hoosiers are working two or three part-time jobs to make the money they make. Getting care when they need it should not become some political pawn in Pence’s future political plans. Excluding people from affordable and accessible treatment is a truly Dickensian way to design a reasonable way to cover everyone in the state.

The real issue here is not about Medicaid, Obamacare and its problematic roll-out, or even Pence’s political aspirations. The real issue is whether you believe that everyone ought to be able to see a doctor and receive treatment if he/she is sick. It’s that simple. Human decency demands that each of us deserves affordable treatment, since we all get sick, and mostly, with treatment, can get better and get back to work and live our daily lives.

Without the expansion of Medicaid, your barber, mechanic and your favorite waitress or bartender will go without the ability to get needed affordable care when he or she is sick. Think about it. It’s just plain mean spirited.

Pence wants the discussion over. But it’s not over. On Jan. 7, at 9 a.m. in the Statehouse, Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan, members of Cover Indiana and the Indiana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers will rally to raise a common voice for the common working person. The guy who delivers your pizza, fixes your vacuum cleaner or grooms your dog deserves the same access to health care as Pence. Expansion of Medicaid to these 182,000 Hoosiers is the right thing to do.

The refusal to expand Medicaid in Indiana is a singular administrative decision of one executive; one man; Mike Pence. The needless suffering of many lays at his feet. We’re waiting, Governor, for you to do the right thing.

Edith Kenna of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan wrote this for The Journal Gazette.