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The Journal Gazette

  • Morphew

Friday, July 14, 2017 1:00 am

Medicaid vital part of Hoosiers' health plan

Phil Morphew

Phil Morphew is CEO of the Indiana Primary Health Care Association.

Health care for at least 450,000 Hoosiers and 25 million Americans is at risk. This warning call comes from community health centers, a vital health care safety net.

More than half of community health center patients are covered by Medicaid. Without a robust, innovative Medicaid program, these centers will face severe cutbacks. This would be a travesty, affecting not only Medicaid patients but the uninsured, Medicare-insured and other vulnerable populations they treat. Many of their 3,300 Hoosier employees could lose their jobs, as well.

Let's consider the alternative – continuing to build on the successes of the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0. Research into upgraded Medicaid programs such as HIP 2.0 has shown that patients now have better access to primary and preventive care at lower out-of-pocket costs.

These enhancements are having a direct, positive and growing effect on health status.

Beyond patients, Hoosier providers know firsthand that more patients today are able to manage chronic illness, detect and treat disease early, and contribute actively to their families, workplaces, and communities.

The proactive care provided by community health centers alone is saving Medicaid $6 billion, primarily in avoided hospital visits. Staying the course makes the best financial sense and does the best by underserved Hoosiers.

Take, for example, Ron White from Kokomo, who was diagnosed a few years ago with lupus, but who had no insurance to provide the necessary treatment or prescription coverage.

White did what so many others did before HIP 2.0 was an option; he had to wait for his symptoms to get so bad that he could be treated in an emergency room, an expensive option that doesn't provide the preventive care needed for his condition. When White was referred to the Indiana Health Centers at Kokomo, he was able to get signed up for HIP 2.0, receive medication that he needed for the treatment of his disease and received information on how to avoid flare-ups that could cause him to need emergency care.

White was able to access the care he needed and hasn't visited the emergency room since he became a patient of the health center.

Put simply, insurance coverage combined with access to a primary care provider results in a better quality of life for the patient and huge cost savings.

Community health centers are accustomed to doing a lot with a little, caring for 16.3 percent of Indiana's Medicaid patients using less than 2 percent of Medicaid spending. However, proposed changes to Medicaid would leave these critical medical facilities with far too little funding to fulfill their mission.

Our elected leaders have before them what should be an easy decision. They can either preserve Medicaid and the health gains Indiana has made, or they can upend HIP 2.0 and spend more on health care while people get sicker. I hope they choose wisely.