Medicaid growth a plus
Before it adjourns this month, the General Assembly faces a task on par with its biennial budget in terms of importance: What to do about expanding coverage for the uninsured?
Morally, it’s an easy call. More than 800,000 Hoosiers younger than 65 have no health insurance coverage.
Financially, there should be no hesitation to do so. A study by the University of Nebraska Medical Center estimates Indiana would see $3.4 billion in new economic activity by expanding coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Gov. Mike Pence continues to stand strong in opposition to Medicaid expansion. But the decision is not his alone to make. Lawmakers’ best course is to position Indiana to negotiate with the federal government in providing health care for more than 400,000 residents who now fall in the gap between those eligible for Medicaid coverage under the state’s current guidelines and the 400,000 who will be eligible to participate in the health insurance exchanges.
Efforts pushed by the House Public Health Committee under Chairman Ed Clere, R-New Albany, would require Indiana to seek a middle ground between the Affordable Care Act and the Healthy Indiana Plan, which Pence wants to use. Clere’s plan includes an escape clause if the federal government doesn’t keep its spending commitment.
The issue doesn’t affect just the uninsured. The new study, commissioned by the Indiana Hospital Association, projects that a reduction in the number of uninsured Hoosiers would drive down the cost for Hoosiers with insurance. Individuals could save an average $236 a year; families would save $677.
Local health officials point to the benefit of reduced health care spending overall, as well as a regional economic benefit.
“What we see are a lot of (uninsured) people who have delayed care,” said Joe Dorko, CEO for Lutheran Health Network. “It’s much easier to treat hypertension than to put someone through open heart surgery.”