The Herald Bulletin

September 6, 2013

Editorial: Pence off target when it comes to health care

The Herald Bulletin

---- — "Today's announcement is nothing more than achieving the minimum."

Anderson's Tim Lanane, Indiana Senate minority leader, uttered those words after Gov. Mike Pence announced Tuesday that the federal government had conditionally approved the extension of Indiana's state-run Healthy Indiana Plan through the end of 2014.

That gives the state more time to consider its options related to the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Pence wants to use HIP as a vehicle for Medicaid expansion under the federal act.

While Pence's plan, and the federal government's approval of the HIP extension, might seem to make financial sense for the State of Indiana, it makes no sense for about 300,0000 uninsured Hoosiers who will not be eligible for HIP or to buy subsidized private health insurance through a federal exchange program to be launched in 2014.

That number includes about 11,000 Indiana residents who were HIP eligible before the federal-state deal to extend HIP. The agreement lowers the income level for eligibility, pushing those 11,000 off the list.

Pence, essentially, is accomplishing the opposite of the spirit of the Affordable Care Act; he's making health insurance available to fewer Hoosiers. But he turns a cold shoulder, noting that any Hoosier can use an emergency room any time they're in need of health care.

That's a strange position for a politician who has based his career, in large part, on conservative fiscal policy. Emergency room care is far more expensive than most other sorts of primary medical care. The more uninsured people who use it, the higher it drives medical and insurance costs for everyone.

In the end, the most important value is universal health care, enabling people to get the right health care at the right time in the right medical facility. Yes, it's expensive, but our state's willingness (or unwillingness) to make sure that it's available to all is indicative of the civic conscience of our society.

Lanane is right on the money (so to speak) in his assessment of the extension of HIP. Pence is doing the minimum in order to protect state coffers; he should be doing the maximum to make sure that all Hoosiers have health insurance and can get health care.

In summary The extension of the Healthy Indiana Plan decreases the number of Hoosiers who are eligible for insurance assistance.