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Feds Agree To One-Year Extension Of State Health Insurance

Gov. Mike Pence announces to a room of reporters that the state and the federal government agreed to a one-year extension of the Healthy Indiana Plan.

More than 36,000 Hoosiers with health insurance through the Healthy Indiana Plan will get to keep their plans for another year after Indiana reached an agreement with the federal government for an extension of the state’s health insurance program for low-income Hoosiers through 2014.

The Healthy Indiana Plan, a pilot Medicaid program, began in 2008 using a five-year waiver from the federal government. It uses federal Medicaid dollars but does not abide by all the typical Medicaid requirements and requires participants to make a monthly contribution to the plan. That contribution is based on a sliding scale using the participant’s household income.

Under the one-year extension, the program will undergo some changes.

Currently, a family of four earning 200 percent of the federal poverty level,  which is about $47,000 a year, is eligible for the program.

That income threshold will be lowered to 100 percent, roughly $23,000 a year for that family of four.

Governor Mike Pence says that’s because those making more than 100 percent of the poverty level will be eligible for tax credits through a healthcare exchange established by the Affordable Care Act.

“That frees up space for people to enroll in the Healthy Indiana Plan that doesn’t exist today,” he says. “So there will be more people that move into the exchanges and then it will free up about 10,000 more spots here.”

But House Minority Leader Scott Pelath says obtaining only a HIP extension merely relieves the fears of a fraction of Hoosiers.

“The governor is basically saying he’s willing to let 400,000 people remain uninsured in this state,” he says. “He’s willing to tell them that their only choice for healthcare is to go to the emergency room, which is costly, wildly chaotic and expensive and passed on to the other taxpayers and premium payers.”

Pence says the health care exchange, and the tax credits that come with it, will make health care coverage more available to many of the state’s uninsured population. He and state Republican legislative leaders have ruled out Medicaid expansion, concerned about costs the state could eventually incur, but the governor says he is still looking other ways Indiana could expand health care.

“We’re going to continue a good faith dialogue and discussions with federal officials about how and in what way we might be able to expand consumer driven healthcare in the state of Indiana,” Pence says.

Pence says he wants expansion through a program like the Healthy Indiana Plan that includes consumer contributions.

But Pelath says the only program capable of expanding health care coverage to thousands of uninsured Hoosiers is Medicaid, through the Affordable Care Act.

“And the fact is, they just don’t want to do it,” he says. “And they don’t have a good reason; it’s purely about politics and posturing and it has nothing to do with actually making people’s lives better.”

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