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State Lawmakers Hope Federal Plan Doesn’t Break HIP

Listen to the first part of this series

There are currently 2,000 Hoosiers on the waiting list for the state’s insurance program, the Healthy Indiana Plan. On Monday, WFIU’s Emily Loftis spoke with a man who’d been on the waiting list and found an organization to help him with his medical bills.  In today’s series conclusion, lawmakers weigh in on other possible solutions to the waiting list problem.

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration oversees the Healthy Indiana Plan.  Seema Verma is a consultant for the FSSA and said in order to expand HIP coverage, the state has to find ways to cut costs in other health-care related areas.

“We submitted a letter to Medicaid Services saying ‘What can we do to lift this?’ What they said is we need to show federal budget neutrality,” Verma said.  “So in other words, we need to show that we’re not going to be bringing in additional federal funding into Indiana.  And we can do that by cutting other programs or by showing savings in the Medicaid program.”

Verma said the state is constantly searching for savings to expand the program, which she contends is the best solution to the problem. However, finding enough money to cover two thousand more citizens in a state with a health record like Indiana’s, may not be such an easy task. According to FSSA statistics, Indiana has the second-most adult smokers, ranks tenth in adult obesity, and maintains one of the lowest rates for those who have regular preventative check-ups.

Bloomington State Representative Peggy Welch, who’s a nurse when not serving in the legislature, said those factors have led to growth in the number of childless adults who apply for HIP.  Couple that with a privatization of FSSA and the pool of cash for HIP dries up.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen through the whole privatization of our Medicaid system in the State of Indiana, it has cost us more.  It has not saved us money,” Welch said.  “Money that could have been spent on HIP has been spent toward trying to fix problems with the whole privatization system.”

Ellettsville State Senator Vi Simpson agrees privatization is a big problem and says contracts agreed to during the Daniels administration cost the state more than 100 million dollars a year.  Thus, the Senate Minority Leader proposes creating an entirely different program for childless adults.

Some of us believe that the program should be expanded, that there should be a parallel program for childless adults that would not use Medicaid dollars, which would remove those limitations,” Simpson said.

Simpson suggests the state will lose money as long as a large number of uninsured Hoosiers are using state-sponsored charities to pay for health care or simply receive treatment with no way to offset hospital costs.

People without health insurance are already costing the health care system a lot of money.  People don’t go without health care.  They just access health care in different ways.”

Welch said a summer study is currently evaluating HIP and its challenges.

“My understanding is there is going to be a study committee this summer that’s going to be looking at these issues within the legislature to see what we can do, based on what our resources are and the resources given to the state by the federal government. It sounds great, but the Devil’s in the details,” she said.

Simpson said President Barack Obama’s national health care proposal would cover more Hoosiers, but cautions one of the many health plans currently on the table would still leave some middle-class Hoosiers uninsured.

“It tends to keep people out who fall in the cracks because of their income levels-who can’t afford the options, but perhaps make enough money so that they don’t get enough subsidy so that they can afford it,” Simpson said. “One of the important considerations for Congress is that whatever options they finally provide keep intact some of the state options that are already out there-that those plans stay in place, because some of them seem to be more comprehensive than the ones that Congress is discussing right now.”

The state has increased cigarette taxes in recent years to help pay for HIP and an examination of Governor Mitch Daniels’ privatization efforts could be a part of the 2010 legislative session.  Until a federal plan is passed or more money raised to fund HIP, however, more than half a million Hoosiers — or about one in every 11 people — remain uninsured.

Listen to the first part of this series

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