INDIANAPOLIS | State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, is continuing her efforts to expand Medicaid eligibility in Indiana, even though Republican Gov. Mike Pence and the Republican-controlled Legislature take pride in resisting the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Tallian announced last week she will file two Medicaid expansion proposals in the Senate. The first plan, which she's dubbed "Just Say Yes," is based on the hope her GOP colleagues simply will take the federal health funds being offered to the state.
"Currently, Indiana tax dollars are already funding expansions for our neighbors in Illinois, Kentucky and all the other states that have chosen to join," Tallian said. "Just take the money that's projected to bring somewhere between $10 billion and $20 billion in new federal money to Indiana by 2020."
Indiana is one of 24 states refusing to raise its Medicaid eligibility limit to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $15,282 for an individual or $31,332 for a family of four, as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act.
As a result, approximately 400,000 Hoosiers who otherwise could receive Medicaid benefits have been forced to buy private insurance or, more likely, remain uninsured. Hoosiers must earn less than $2,457 for an individual or $5,071 for a family of four to enroll in Indiana's Medicaid program.
Tallian said the General Assembly needs to throw those Hoosiers a lifeline by expanding Medicaid eligibility as soon as possible, especially since the federal government will pay the entire cost of new enrollees through 2016, and 90 percent after 2020.
She noted the Indiana Hospital Association projects a full Medicaid expansion would create some 30,000 new jobs. That's more jobs than the state's commerce agency, the Indiana Economic Development Corp., attracted last year.
Medicaid expansion also would result in $3.5 billion in additional indirect economic activity, she said.
Her second proposal, modeled after a similar Arkansas program, would use federal Medicaid expansion dollars to buy private health insurance for low-income Hoosiers through the state's federally run health marketplace.
Tallian believes her "premium assistance" plan could appeal to Republican lawmakers because it gets Hoosiers who are otherwise eligible for expanded Medicaid covered by health insurance without directly adding them to the Medicaid rolls.
"We hope that among these choices, we can offer these people something, and not play politics with the health of hundreds of thousands of people," Tallian said.
Tallian announced her Medicaid expansion plans Thursday during a rollout of the Senate Democratic legislative agenda.
Other items Senate Democrats plan to focus on during the 2014 legislative session include: raising the state's minimum wage to $10 per hour; universal access to state-funded preschool; establishing a veterans preference in state hiring; fighting pay discrimination based on gender; ensuring all day cares meet state safety standards; and providing a tax credit to the adoptive parents of disabled children.