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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, August 08, 2017 1:00 am

Indiana voices

Beyond the arguments and exaggerations, two realities seem genuinely clear regarding Hoosiers' health care.

First, the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, crafted by former Gov. Mike Pence, has enabled 400,000 low-income working residents to receive health care they previously could not afford. Second, those Hoosiers' improved physical well-being benefits Indiana's productivity, and any dismantling of HIP 2.0 would degrade their quality of life.

Pence negotiated the plan with President Obama's administration and received federal approval in 2015. HIP 2.0 relies upon funding through the Medicaid expansion to states under Obama's Affordable Care Act. However, Pence remodeled the Medicaid program similarly to private market health care, with recipients paying 2 percent of their income toward health savings accounts.

Pence's hand-picked successor, Gov. Eric Holcomb, describes the health care program as a life-changer for recipients. “HIP does more than just provide insurance coverage: It encourages people to make wise decisions about their own health and health care. It helps connect Hoosiers with resources to get a job and improve their overall quality of life.”

The future of that plan looked murky at best last month as the U.S. Senate's Republican majority leadership tried multiple times to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and, thus, any state-level customization of “Obamacare” such as HIP 2.0.

Last week's Senate votes signaled, perhaps, the end of the party's 71/2-year obsession that should lead to a bipartisan collaboration to fix the ACA's flaws.

Such aisle-crossing cooperation likely would have to happen over resistance from the White House. Since becoming vice president, Pence has echoed President Donald Trump's apocalyptic descriptions of “Obamacare” as a “disaster.” As Pence beat the repeal-and-replace drum, the VP has avoided mentions of what a pullback would do to the HIP 2.0 plan he designed and trumpeted as “a model of health care reform going forward.” Pence prioritizes the disassembly of all things Obama over practical governing.

Fortunately, Holcomb is not so ideological. Holcomb said Indiana would not wait on Congress to settle its health care feud, and asked federal officials to give the state more flexibility and support to combat the opioid abuse crisis. He told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that if Congress cuts federal funding for state programs such as HIP 2.0 (presumably by repealing the ACA), he would consider raising taxes to keep the state plan functioning.

“I'm willing to entertain all sorts of decisions that will be difficult to make that will make sure that we're able to continue taking care of Hoosiers in need,” the JG reported Holcomb as saying. “I want to be part of the solution.”

It is time for Congress and the White House to join Holcomb in being “part of the solution.”

– Tribune-Star, Terre Haute