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June 17, 2013

HOWEY: Who’s caring for Hoosier kids outside the womb?

NASHVILLE, Ind. —

Let’s talk about Hoosier children.

Five readings this past week really popped out.

The first was a Feed America study in 21 counties in Central Indiana that revealed that only a daily basis, 320,000 Hoosiers — including 100,000 kids —don’t know where their next meal will come from. Or as Gleaners Food Bank observes, 15.2 percent of this population “struggles with hunger.”

The second was my colleague Maureen Hayden’s report for Community Newspapers, which revealed that while 17 percent of Hoosier kids live in poverty, 49 percent are on the school free lunch program. She reported that there is “no proof of income required.” Two things are going on here. Some parents are gaming the system, and school corporations get extra money based on how many kids are in the lunch program. There are $6 billion state dollars that go into K-12 schools and about $1 billion is tied directly to this “complexity index” which includes the free lunches.

Three, a Harvard and City University of New York study of Indiana reveals that 232,000 Hoosiers  won’t get health care coverage that will be available in other states because Indiana has rejected expanding its Medicaid program. Gov. Pence is seeking a federal waiver to do this through the Healthy Indiana Plan, which covers about 40,000 Hoosiers, with a similar amount on a waiting list. The Indianapolis Business Journal reported that there were 764,000 uninsured Hoosiers (12 percent) before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.” Expansion of Medicaid would cut that number to about 6 percent of the population. But if Indiana does not expand Medicaid coverage, the IBJ reports, its uninsured population will remain at nearly 10 percent. It’s that difference of 4 percent that could impact 232,000 people. 

Then there was the RAND Corporation study of 14 states (not including Indiana) which have opted not to expand Medicaid. It reported: Those state governments collectively will spend $1 billion more on uncompensated care in 2016 than they would if Medicaid is expanded. In addition, those 14 state governments would forgo $8.4 billion annually in federal payments and an additional 3.6 million people will be left uninsured.

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