The Senate Appropriations Committee got its first official look at the budget bill Thursday and fiscal leaders say healthcare funding will be the largest area of contention moving forward.
The House budget bill, presented by Ways and Means chair Tim Brown to the Senate committee Thursday, includes significant increases in K-12 and higher education dollars and a permanent funding mechanism for upkeep of the state’s roads and bridges.
Senate Appropriations chair Luke Kenley says he supports those priorities but says the biggest question hanging over the entire budget process is the cost of healthcare.
“Is the cost, which Dr. Brown said was an increase of 17 percent even without an expansion of Medicaid, going to be so much that it’s going to threaten our ability to give education increases in the future,” Kenley says.
Kenley says the idea of expanding healthcare coverage to more Hoosiers is still on the table, which Portage Democratic Senator Karen Tallian appreciates.
“It’s pretty clear that the Democrats want to do this. I think there are a lot of people on the other side who also want to do this but we have to do it tactfully,” Tallian says.
Tallian says greater flexibility from the federal government, that could include allowing the state to use the Healthy Indiana Plan as the vehicle for expansion, will go a long way to making expansion possible.