Health expert predicts Indiana lawmakers will expand Medicaid eligibility

2013-01-11T17:30:00Z 2013-01-13T01:00:08Z Health expert predicts Indiana lawmakers will expand Medicaid eligibilityDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
January 11, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | A health care expert who teaches law at Indiana University believes the General Assembly will approve an optional expansion of Medicaid eligibility under Obamacare.

Dr. David Orentlicher, a former Democratic state representative from Indianapolis, told reporters Friday that if the Republican-controlled Legislature can look beyond politics it would realize it's foolish to deny health coverage to nearly 300,000 low-income Hoosiers.

"The hospitals and the state have struggled with this uncompensated care problem that to prolong it, doesn't make sense, especially when the federal government makes it so easy to expand," Orentlicher said.

Under Obamacare, Americans earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $14,856 for an individual or $30,657 for a family of four, will become eligible for Medicaid in 2014 if their state adopts the expanded eligibility criteria.

Republican Gov.-elect Mike Pence and the Republican-controlled Legislature generally oppose Obamacare but have so far remained mum on whether they'll support Medicaid expansion.

Orentlicher said that because the federal government will cover 100 percent of the new enrollees' Medicaid expenses for the first three years and 90 percent after 2020, it makes no sense to say no.

"I'd be shocked if the governor and Legislature don't find a way to make Medicaid expansion palatable," he said. "It's a very good deal for the state."

Orentlicher said expansion would cost Indiana about $80 million a year between 2014 and 2020, but the state would get about $8 billion in additional federal funds during that period.

He said revenue from the state's cigarette tax originally used to fund the Healthy Indiana Plan, which is expected to expire at the end of the year, could be redirected to an expanded Medicaid program and would provide health coverage to more Hoosiers.

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