He said the uninsured can still access health care through hospitals’ charity care programs, emergency rooms, and public and privately funded clinics that serve the poor.
“Let’s make sure there is a distinction in the language between health insurance and health care,” he said. “Every person in this state has the ability, if they are struggling with illness to walk into an emergency room and receive care.”
That remark provoked a sharp rebuke from the House Minority Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City.
"What we're seeing today is something being trumpeted as a success, when in essence it is a complete failure," Pelath said. "The continuation of coverage for a few people does nothing to move Indiana forward, it still leaves these people uninsured."
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane of Anderson said Tuesday’s announcement comes as a relief to the HIP’s current plan members but does little to help Hoosiers without health care coverage.
“To them, today’s announcement is nothing more than achieving the minimum.”
The Healthy Indiana Plan was approved in 2008 by the federal government as an option for the state to provide health coverage for low-income residents. But the number of Hoosiers who can sign up for the plan is capped at 45,000. Some 50,000 people are on the waiting list.
The plan requires participants to pay up to 5 percent of their incomes into a health saving account, which is used to pay their initial medical expenses. Participant health care costs beyond $1,100 a year are shared by the state and federal government.
Under the deal struck with the federal government to extend the HIP program until the end of 2014, the state will lower the income eligibility for participants, from the current 200 percent of the federal poverty level down to 100 percent, which is about $23,000 for a family of four.