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Congressman, State Rep. Launch Health Care ‘Listening Tour’

State Representative Tim Brown (left center) and Congressman Larry Bucshon (right center) tour the cancer unit at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, Monday, April 14, 2014.

Indiana Congressman Larry Bucshon and State Representative Tim Brown, who are both doctors, are traveling the state in what they’re calling their Hoosier Healthcare Listening Tour.

Bucshon says the tour is a unique opportunity for the state’s two highest ranking physicians in public office to engage Hoosiers about Indiana’s health care problems and potential solutions.

The state’s overall health ranking is 41st in the country, and Bucshon says one of the key issues isn’t just the unhealthiness of the state, but the limited access to care.

“When you look at our infant mortality rate of 7.7 per one thousand babies, we’re one percent about the national average, which ranks us 47th,” he says. “When you look at access to healthcare, you see 30 of Indiana’s 92 counties don’t have direct access to obstetrics services.”

Brown says one of the areas the state needs to focus on is providing more post-medical school training opportunities.

“So what we need is more family practice, pediatric, psychiatric and OB/GYN residency programs throughout the whole state,” Brown says. “In Evansville, in New Albany, in Fort Wayne we need to increase people who are in training so they’ll stay in Indiana.”

Brown says the state is also providing loan repayment programs to encourage more physicians to move into those specialty areas that parts of the state lack.

The Future of the Healthy Indiana Plan

Both Brown and Bucshon discussed the future of Indiana’s original solution to healthcare for Hoosiers – the Healthy Indiana plan. Brown says he’s optimistic the state and the federal government will reach an agreement that will allow Indiana to use a version of its Healthy Indiana program to expand healthcare coverage.

Indiana wants approval from the Department of Health and Human Services to use federal Medicaid dollars through the Healthy Indiana Plan to expand health insurance coverage to around 400,000 Hoosiers.  Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane criticize Republican legislative leaders and the governor for not using the money provided in the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid and ensure those 400,000 receive coverage.

But Brown says the state has to think about long-term consequences

“Let’s get it right before we decide to spend it, as opposed to spend it and then say, ‘We’ll try to get it right,’” Brown said.

Brown and 8th District Congressman Larry Bucshon, the state’s two highest ranking physicians in public office, are traveling the state on what they call the Hoosier Healthcare Listening Tour.  Bucshon says he doesn’t think the state can count on long-term financial support from the federal government.

“The pressures that we have at the federal level on our budget – we’re $17 trillion in debt as a country – will drive down the federal support for the Medicaid program expansion,” Bucshon said.

But Lanane says by waiting to expand, Indiana is leaving billions of dollars from the federal government on the table, money he says could create 30 thousand jobs and guarantee health coverage for low-income Hoosiers.

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