DOUG ROSS: Let's do a controlled experiment on Medicaid

2013-03-01T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Let's do a controlled experiment on MedicaidDoug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

Indiana, like other states, is trying to figure out how to comply with the federal law compelling states to expand Medicaid eligibility so more uninsured Americans get health care coverage. There's a catch, though, because states pay a portion of the cost of Medicaid.

State Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, is the Indiana House minority leader. The Times published his eloquent defense of Medicaid expansion Wednesday. He noted the 30,000 Hoosier jobs an American Hospital Association study said would be created if Indiana expands Medicaid.

Gov. Mike Pence, an ardent opponent of Obamacare, insists on an alternate route — expanding the Healthy Indiana Plan created by his predecessor, Mitch Daniels. Pence has a study saying this option would be 3 percent cheaper than expanding Medicaid.

The high-deductible Healthy Indiana Plan requires the enrollee and Medicaid to pay a $1,100 deductible. That aims to make the enrollee more concerned about controlling health care costs.

The Indiana General Assembly is weighing in on this as well. House Bill 1591, to use the Healthy Indiana Plan as the model for Medicaid expansion, died in the House this week. But Senate Bill 551, which would accomplish basically the same thing, advanced to the House on Tuesday.

There's a showdown with the federal government shaping up, and we already know from experience that the feds will win this fight.

But I like the suggestion put forth by Robert Blaszkiewicz, my nwi.com Political Roundtable colleague. Robert suggests the feds allow the Healthy Indiana Plan to go forward as a test case.

Health care reform should be considered a work in progress. More must be done to bring costs under control and to provide quality, affordable care to more Americans. The question is how to accomplish this.

So here's my suggestion to the Obama administration: Allow Indiana to expand the Healthy Indiana Plan, with supervision, and see how well it works.

Use it as a controlled experiment. Set the right metrics to compare both the Medicare expansion the Obama administration wants and the Healthy Indiana Plan expansion the Pence administration wants.

At the end of the test period, compare the results and see which model best meets the most needs. If Indiana loses, no griping about the switch. If Indiana wins, others should follow suit.

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita's State Health Flexibility Act of 2013, which would turn Medicaid into a block grant program, could make this happen.

Obamacare was based on Romneycare, Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care experiment.

Why not use Indiana as a lab experiment to see whether Pence's model works better than Romney's and Obama's model?

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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