Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

May 30, 2014

Another View: Credit Indiana for expanding health care

The bottom line matters most with a long-overdue health-care proposal announced … by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

His staff labels it “HIP 2.0,” a significant enhancement of the state’s existing Healthy Indiana Plan. Pence describes it as “consumer-driven health care.”

President Obama’s administration called the governor’s idea a “Medicaid coverage expansion,” as prescribed in the Affordable Care Act. The president’s critics derisively brand the ACA “Obamacare.” A critic of Pence’s plan, writing for Forbes, warns that HIP 2.0 will become “a Medicaid expansion with some free-market window dressing.”

The name worn by the Indiana plan - be it HIP 2.0, Healthy Indiana Part Deux, or Pencecare — is of little consequence. The results are what matters. If the federal government views Pence’s Healthy Indiana Plan expansion as an acceptable version of Medicaid expansion, then 350,000 currently uninsured, low-income, non-disabled Hoosiers ages 19 to 64 will become eligible for health care coverage.

That expansion is a big deal for Indiana. The state persistently ranks near the bottom nationally in the health of its residents, with high rates of smoking, heart disease, obesity and cancer. That dismal situation weakens the Hoosier workforce and diminishes economic productivity. The lack of attention to health — including regular, preventative care — costs Indiana greatly right now. Pence has taken a big step toward improving that bleak predicament.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia had already taken that step through expanding Medicaid as outlined in the Affordable Care Act. A Supreme Court ruling made that expansion optional. Thus, nearly two dozen states — most led by Republican governors who oppose the president and his health care plan — have refused to implement the Medicaid expansion, which extends coverage to people with household incomes at 138 percent of the federal poverty level (or about $33,000 for a family of four). It is a legion of Americans who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and don’t qualify for a subsidy through the ACA.

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