Decoding the ACA

Panel hoped to stir health care discussion

2013-09-21T12:30:00Z Panel hoped to stir health care discussionVanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

Editor's note: This story is part of an occasional series that looks at how the Affordable Care Act affects the region.

GARY | Sam Flint wants Indiana residents to get angry.

The associate professor at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, who also serves as associate director in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, was part of a panel last week discussing the Affordable Care Act and Indiana's failure to expand Medicaid under the law.

"I'm here to make you angry with the information I'm about to present," he told the crowd of more than 100 students and community members.

The three-member panel assembled as part of a Constitution Day event. It included Susan Zinner, associate professor of public and environmental affairs, and state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary.

Zinner reviewed the basic history of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Flint focused on Indiana's refusal to expand Medicaid, in favor of extending the Healthy Indiana Plan. Brown underscored Flint's comments, urging the crowd to call their state representative and Gov. Mike Pence to express their opinions.

"If you're not angry, you need to start getting angry," Brown said.

The Affordable Care Act allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility to Americans earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of new enrollees the first three years, then gradually decline to 90 percent by 2020.

But Indiana declined to expand Medicaid, a move Flint blamed on politics.

There's a partisan divide among states choosing to expand Medicaid, as many Republican-controlled states are opting not to, he said.

"There's no reason this isn't done, except for pure partisan politics," he said. "We all depend on Medicaid. It's not just for the poor."

Expanding Medicaid would reduce the cost-shift paid by people who are privately insured. It would substitute federal dollars for state and locally funded services. And, it would reduce the burden for employers required to buy health insurance for low-wage employees, Flint said.

Brown urged the audience to call their friends and have them call their friends and so on, encouraging everyone to contact their legislators to change the law going forward.

Just because Indiana has chosen not to expand Medicaid for 2014, it will be allowed to in the future.

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