INDIANAPOLIS | Two doctor-legislators traveling Indiana on a Hoosier Healthcare Tour were quick Tuesday to diagnose problems with the nation's health system but had few prescriptions for real change.
U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Newburgh, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and state Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, an emergency room physician, agreed during their Statehouse stop that reducing the cost of health care is more important than getting all Americans health coverage, especially if that coverage comes through Medicaid.
"It doesn't make sense to expand a program that's already failing," Bucshon said.
The southwestern Indiana congressman declared the best way to shrink health costs is by making the price and burden of paying for medical procedures more transparent to patients, giving them an incentive to seek lower-cost providers.
He admitted it still would take years to see any results from that change. Bucshon doubts any cost-focused reforms will become law while President Barack Obama is in office and defending the Affordable Care Act, which Bucshon wants repealed, but he insisted price transparency is the only way to go.
The congressman shrugged off a question about what the 400,000 uninsured Hoosiers needing access to health care should do in the meantime.
Brown, chairman of the state's budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said simply accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility to more low-income, children, elderly, disabled and pregnant Hoosiers is the wrong answer to reducing Indiana's uninsured population.
"There are a lot of strings attached to that federal money ... rules that make it hard to do what you (as a state) think is best," Brown said. "I say let's get it right before we try to spend it."
Both men said they support Republican Gov. Mike Pence's efforts to win federal approval to use the high-deductible Healthy Indiana Plan as an alternative to Medicaid expansion, and don't regret Indiana will miss out on $10 billion in federal health funds the state otherwise would receive through 2020 if it had expanded eligibility.
About 1.1 million Hoosiers, approximately 1 in 6 state residents, already are enrolled in Medicaid for their health needs.
Bucshon and Brown's two-week tour of Hoosier health centers isn't stopping in Northwest Indiana. Bucshon said scheduling difficulties prevented a visit to the region.