Healthy Indiana Plan Receives One-Year Extension
State, HHS still talking on possible Medicaid expansion
FSSA Secretary Debra Minott (left) and Gov. Mike Pence (WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)
Indiana's health program for the uninsured has received a second straight one-year extension from the federal government.
The extension of the Healthy Indiana Plan lowers eligibility to the poverty line, half the old threshold. Governor Pence says the change will actually put more people in the program. HIP has a waiting list of about 55,000 people. Pence says reducing the eligibility threshold makes about 10,000 people eligible for premium assistance under the new federal health-insurance exchange, while opening their slots in HIP to new enrollees.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also approved enrollment changes which Pence says will bring another 5,000 applicants off the waiting list.
Still unresolved is a proposal to use the Healthy Indiana Plan as a vehicle to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law. Indiana Family and Social Services Secretary Debra Minott says the plan's future needed to be settled first. She and Pence say traditional Medicaid lacks incentives for preventive care and personal responsibility for one's health -- exactly the aspects they say HIP promotes through its use of health savings accounts.
HHS says it granted the extension to avoid disrupting coverage while talks continue over whether to let the state funnel Medicaid patients into HIP. The Medicaid expansion takes effect with the new year, and Minott acknowledges there's not enough time for Indiana to be part of it from the get-go. HHS has said states can opt into the program at any time.
House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) says he's glad HIP will continue for current patients, but says it's an "embarrassment" that Pence hasn't joined other Republican governors in accepting federal money to extend Medicaid. He says the administration's insistence on using HIP for any such expansion would take the program to a scale on which it was never meant to operate. He charges Pence has turned it into a "vanity project" to enhance his resume for a possible presidential run.
Pelath and Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) argue Hoosiers are already paying for the expansion of Medicaid through their tax dollars. By not implementing the expansion, they say, the state is paying for health coverage in other states while leaving more than 300,000 Hoosiers uninsured.
Indiana will report back to the federal government at the end of June next year on how the program has fared.