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The Journal Gazette

  • Stone

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 1:00 am

Threat to his constituents

Obamacare suit puts Hoosiers' health at risk

Dr. Robert Stone

Dr. Robert Stone, director of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan, is medical director for the Palliative Care Program at Indiana University Health Bloomington and an assistant clinical professor for the IU School of Medicine.

Editor's note: Dr. Stone's piece was written before sexual-harassment allegations arose last week against Attorney General Curtis Hill. Hill has denied the allegations leveled by four women.

Did anyone else see the news release from the Indiana Attorney General's office on Feb. 27?

The one where Attorney General Curtis Hill announced that Indiana “has joined a 20-state coalition urging a federal district court in Texas to hold the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is unconstitutional”?

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Hill went on to crow, “The whole house of the Affordable Care Act must come crumbling down.”

I admit I was not paying attention, either, until June 7 when the nation's top lawyer, Jeff Sessions, announced that the Justice Department would not defend this lawsuit Indiana is pursuing.

The lawsuit aims to void the Affordable Care Act and crucial provisions in it that protect consumers with pre-existing conditions.

To be clear, anyone with a pre-existing health condition, whether it be a disability they were born with, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, you name it, is in grave danger of losing their health insurance as a result of this action by Indiana's attorney general.

We know that when people lose their health insurance, it makes it difficult and expensive to receive testing and treatment, difficult even to find a doctor who will see you. We know that their health will deteriorate and people will die as a result. We know this will lead to disability, suffering and medical bankruptcy

I have practiced medicine in Indiana since 1983. For 28 years, I was an emergency physician, dealing daily with people who had no health insurance.

They waited until they were desperate before coming into the ER for care, waited until their heart attack or their stroke was complete and no treatment would be able to reverse the damage.

I saw people die from delaying care because they couldn't afford it. I saw the situation in our state get better after Obamacare.

Indiana has seen a small but significant improvement in our state health rankings over the past few years. We are beginning to make progress on our infant mortality and opioid crises. All that progress could be lost if Hill is successful in his efforts as more Hoosiers lose coverage and access to care.

To make matters worse, Medicaid stands to be cut as well.

With Medicaid cuts, we will see rural hospitals close, which will even further aggravate problems like infant mortality and the shortage of addiction treatment options. Many rural hospitals are the largest employers in their communities.

Why did Hill feel this is something so important to pursue? How does taking health insurance away from Hoosiers come under the purview of the attorney general? Was he acting on his own or at the behest of the governor?

I think Hill's actions in this case are fundamentally inconsistent with the role of the attorney general and can be seen as a serious dereliction of his duty to protect the people of this state.

Either Hill should act to withdraw Indiana from this lawsuit, or else he should resign his position.