INDIANAPOLIS — The state agency leader who oversees the Healthy Indiana Plan believes Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb's proposed work requirement for some members is a necessary innovation that will lead to improved health outcomes.

Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration, said Thursday that Indiana has an unique opportunity to grow its workforce in a time of low unemployment by mandating most able-bodied HIP participants be employed at least part-time to maintain their health coverage.

"We really believe that there's never been a better time to think a little bit outside the lane to solidify the link between health, wellness and employment for low-income Hoosiers," Walthall said.

She insisted the goal is not to kick thousands of Hoosiers off HIP for failing to hold a job, but to provide the services and programs that will help HIP members get employed and perhaps on to private health insurance.

Under the plan, HIP participants unable to find work still could satisfy the mandate and preserve their health coverage by participating in verified job skills training, job search activities, vocational training, community service or volunteer work.

The proposed mandate would not apply to some 300,000 HIP members who are full- or part-time students, pregnant women, primary caregivers for young children or disabled dependents, older than 60, medically frail, temporarily disabled, in a drug-treatment program or recently released from prison.

The federal government must sign off on the work requirement for it to take effect, since nearly all HIP funding comes to Indiana via the Medicaid expansion component of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

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Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.