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Statehouse Dems want state to start health care reform

Updated: March 10, 2013 6:45AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Democratic leaders in the General Assembly plan to fight for the Affordable Care Act in the coming weeks, arguing it will offer jobs and lower health care costs and premiums throughout the state.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, and Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said Indiana risks being the only state in the Midwest that chooses not to implement the health care reforms.

Pelath highlighted three reasons to implement the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, pointing to job creation, keeping patients from using the emergency room as their first step in health care, and stopping bankruptcy filings due to high costs of insurance. A number of amendments have been drafted that would establish the reforms.

“We have not debated this, not even one day, so far in this session,” Pelath said, “We’re going to use every opportunity in committees and on the floor, not just to force votes, but to force discussion. If the other side has better ideas, they need to start talking about them.”

Lanane added that Senate Democrats will offer similar amendments.

Their goals include expanding Medicaid for those who have an income between 27 percent and 138 percent of the poverty line, and the creation of a state-run insurance exchange.

Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced Feb. 4 his intention to expand Medicaid under the new law, and two days later, Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder made a similar announcement for expanding the coverage. Illinois and Kentucky, which both have Democratic governors, announced their intent last summer.

“That will leave Indiana as the island in the middle,” Lanane said, noting the other states’ recent decisions. “I don’t think we want to be known as the island of the uninsured. We need to move forward with a real plan.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said he has “declined to expand Medicaid coverage as allowed under the law.”

Soon after the response Senate Health Chairwoman Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis announced Friday that the Healthy Indiana Plan should be used to meet the requirements, and Gov. Mike Pence said earlier that the only way Medicaid would be expanded is through that program, which works like a health savings account.

Lanane said the governor should rethink his position and consider the expansion objectively, and Pelath said that the Healthy Indiana Plan was a successful program and should still be used, but not as the only way to provide coverage.

“We’re given the opportunity to cover everyone up in Indiana to 138% of the poverty line,” he said. “That’s hundreds of thousands of people. This is not only affordable, we can’t afford to not do it.”



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