Expert: Answers needed on how new law will alter Hoosiers' health care

2010-07-16T00:00:00Z 2010-07-16T00:50:05Z Expert: Answers needed on how new law will alter Hoosiers' health careBy Dan Carden, (317) 637-9078

INDIANAPOLIS | A legislative committee studying the effects of national health reform on Indiana found few answers to its questions Thursday, mostly just more questions.

Joy Johnson Wilson, health policy director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, told the General Assembly's Health Finance Commission that the new health law significantly will alter how Hoosiers get health care and how Indiana pays for that care, but it's too soon to know how the transition will happen.

"I think we're struggling with how to plan for something that we don't know what it looks like, don't know what it feels like and don't know what the component parts are," Johnson Wilson said.

What is known, she said, is Medicaid will be the new platform for health insurance. Under the health reform law, Americans with an adjusted gross income of less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or $14,400 for an individual, will qualify for Medicaid.

That change has consequences for Indiana because the state pays about 33 percent of Hoosiers' Medicaid expenses with the federal government paying the remainder. If more Hoosiers are on Medicaid the state will have to pay more, up to $3.6 billion through 2020, according to an estimate from the state's actuary.

State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, said that likely will lead to an "Ultimate Fighting cage match" between funding for health care and education, the two largest state spending items.

"We can't even plan for what we do during the budget-writing process because we don't know what the facts are, what the rules are going to be and really there's a whole lot that's up in the air yet," Charbonneau said.

But state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, the committee chairman, said "the jury is still out" on whether Indiana will have to pay more for health care.

Brown said the savings from having every Hoosier covered by insurance and potentially retaining programs like the Healthy Indiana Plan could balance out the extra state costs of new Medicaid enrollees.

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