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April 2, 2013

Committee pushes Pence to negotiate Medicaid expansion

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has insisted he won’t expand what he calls the “broken” Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, but some state legislators are encouraging him to do so, even it’s called by another name. 

On Monday, the House Public Health Committee passed legislation that mandates Pence negotiate with the federal government to find a way to use expanded Medicaid funds to provide healthcare coverage for more than 400,000 uninsured Hoosiers.

The 8-5 bipartisan vote on Senate Bill 551 supports a plan put forth by Pence that exclusively ties Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act to the state’s Healthy Indiana Plan.  

But it also nudges Pence to go further if thee federal government rejects his proposal — a nudge that the Pence administration questioned as valid at a hearing last week. 

“We want the (Pence) administration to make a good-faith effort, its best effort, to create an option to cover these uninsured Hoosiers,” said state Rep. Ed Clere, a New Albany Republican who chairs the House Public Health Committee. 

Senate Bill 551, as passed by the Senate, contained language that suggested Pence negotiate with the federal government about how to implement a provision in the Affordable Care Act that calls for states to expand the traditional Medicaid program to cover the working poor. 

The House committee beefed up that language and also gave the state an out: If the federal government doesn’t come through with the billions of dollars promised to the state to expand Medicaid — as Pence fears — the state could pull back from the expansion. 

Pence has insisted he won’t expand Medicaid coverage as called for under the ACA. But he has asked the federal government to give Indiana millions more in Medicaid dollars to expand the state’s current program for the uninsured, known as the Healthy Indiana Plan.

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