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November 20, 2013

Pence asks Sebelius for meeting on health care

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence has requested a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss issues that may be blocking a federal approval of using the state's health savings accounts to expand Medicaid coverage in Indiana, his office said Tuesday.

Pence requested the meeting in a letter dated Nov. 15 and made public by his office Tuesday.

The health savings accounts, known as the Healthy Indiana Plan, currently insure about 40,000 Hoosiers who agree to make monthly contributions unless they qualify for exemptions, The Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

Pence so far has declined to expand eligibility for Medicaid. The federal health care overhaul called for states to make Medicaid available to all adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled states can choose not to follow that part of the plan. The Kaiser Family Foundation has projected an increase would add as many as 180,000 to Indiana's Medicaid rolls.

Pence acknowledged the Healthy Indiana Plan's monthly contributions have been an issue in discussions with Sebelius' agency, but he insisted on some form of consumer responsibility in any expansion of coverage in Indiana.

"However, in order to expand the Healthy Indiana Plan, it is essential that the State be able to maintain the consumer-driven model on which the program is predicated," Pence wrote.

The Pence administration won a one-year extension of the Healthy Indiana Plan last summer from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but negotiations over an expansion of the plan have been delayed.

HHS has asked the Pence administration to come up with new ideas for solving its concerns over the contributions and a cap on enrollment before agreeing to expand the program, said Deb Minott, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, which administers Medicaid in Indiana.

"They're really trying to challenge us to come up with other ways of doing that," Minott told the IBJ in a recent interview. State officials are "brainstorming" ways of preserving HIP's principals of individual and fiscal responsibility while satisfying the concerns of the Obama administration, she said.

 

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