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Recipe for disaster: Indiana is reaching point where it will be an "island of the uninsured"

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For immediate release:
May 14, 2013

 

Below is the text of a "letter to the editor" distributed by State Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary), who is the Ranking Democrat serving on the Indiana House Standing Committee on Public Health:


INDIANAPOLIS - As a state lawmaker, I have spent the better part of my 30-plus years in the Indiana General Assembly trying to find a way to provide affordable health care for the people of this state.

In 2007, I was able to work with Gov. Mitch Daniels, State Sen. Pat Miller (R-Indianapolis) and a coalition of advocates and activists to create the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), an effort to provide coverage for Hoosiers living on lower and fixed incomes.

From those beginnings, HIP has worked to benefit more than 32,000 Hoosiers. The Healthy Indiana Plan has helped, but it is not the answer for what ails the long-term health care needs of the people of this state.

For that, I believe we must turn to the answers provided through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Indiana. It is the best solution, short of having universal health care in our state.

Yet we have just completed a legislative session where the Republican super-majorities and the governor chose to do nothing to bring affordable health care to Indiana. A golden opportunity to address our most serious needs—health care and job creation—was tossed aside for reasons I fear were driven more by a simple desire not to give the President of the United States a victory.

Consider what the ACA could do for Indiana:

  • Provide affordable health care for 400,000 more Hoosiers.
  • Create 30,000 new Hoosier jobs, primarily to meet the demands created by an expanded health care system.

Those aren’t numbers idly plucked out of the air. They come from the Indiana Hospital Association, and I haven’t heard them successfully challenged yet.

Other benefits come to mind.

The people of Indiana are already paying for the ACA. If we elect to bring it here, we are bringing nearly $10.5 billion in our tax dollars back to our state. Without the ACA, we will be paying to address the health care needs of people in our neighboring states.

The greatest impact, of course, will come in making the lives of hundreds of thousands more Hoosiers better by helping them save on health care premiums and, most importantly, reducing the likelihood that the emergency room is the first option in addressing health care needs.

The size and scope of this plan makes it all the more critical that Indiana join up, like so many other states have done.

But we have decided to say no. Or rather, the Republicans that rule our state have decided to say no.

They claim an expansion of the Healthy Indiana Plan offers the best way to address our health care needs.

That is simply not so, and I am saying that as someone who considers HIP one of my greatest accomplishments as a legislator.

There is no way that a program of HIP’s scope can be expanded to provide the type of coverage that can be found through the Affordable Care Act. It cannot handle the needs of hundreds of thousands more Hoosiers.

But its modest success does serve as an excuse for the governor and the Republican majorities to claim it would be a better alternative for handling taxpayer-supported health insurance coverage than the ACA.

This would mark the third time by my count that the Daniels and Pence Administrations have attempted to obtain the proper permission from the federal government to use HIP as the basis for their health care program. They did not get it before now, and they will not get it this time.

The stakes are higher this go-around. Without the federal approval, it is very likely that close to 29,000 Hoosiers presently on the HIP plan will lose their coverage at the end of this year. These folks are at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level and thus would be ineligible for exchange coverage.

Other states have considered these questions, and chosen to accept the fact that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, certified by the U.S. Supreme Court. These states—many with Republican governors—have decided that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages and chosen to make the right move.

By saying no, Indiana is reaching the point where it will find itself on an island of the uninsured. We won’t be able to take full advantage of the federal program, and soon we may lose the coverage provided through the state program.

Is this really what the Republicans in charge of state government want? Do they even care?

They should. Those 400,000 Hoosiers without medical coverage will be pretty hard to ignore when it turns out our state program isn’t going to get the federal support our leaders crave.

And that is the recipe for disaster...one that will make health care in Indiana a model for what other states should NOT follow.

What a waste...a sad, stupid, senseless waste.


State Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) is the Ranking Democrat serving on the Indiana House Standing Committee on Public Health.

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