When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced his solution to the health care woes facing hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers – expanding the Healthy Indiana Plan to create HIP 2.0 – his declaration was greeted with general acclaim.
I will not be joining that chorus of “Amen.”
This framework is simply incapable of meeting the health care needs of so many people.
Furthermore, by continuing to stubbornly reject the benefits offered through acceptance of the federal Affordable Care Act, our state is tossing away millions in taxpayer dollars, thousands of new jobs, and denying comprehensive coverage that truly can make Hoosiers healthy.
My concerns about the Healthy Indiana Plan have nothing to do with its intent, but with the way it was implemented.
Remember that when it was created, Healthy Indiana was supposed to carry a steady enrollment of around 130,000 individuals. After more than five years of operation, enrollment never got to 50,000. Indeed, the waiting list to get into the program came close to 60,000 people until that list was arbitrarily ended by the Family and Social Services Agency through a rule change.
Yet there is now more than $300 million in the HIP Trust Fund.
In other words, HIP has over-promised and under-delivered. Yet we are asked to believe this program should be the template for an expansion of health care services.
Despite all the happy talk from the governor and his supporters, a few facts remain unchanged:
There is no definitive timeline of when HIP 2.0 will be operational.
Already we have seen cracks forming in this plan. Those most in need who have the least financial means will be compelled to enter into a plan that offers no dental or vision care and only a limited pharmacy benefit. In addition, they will be asked to pony up for expensive co-payments for essential health care benefits.
Combine these details with a vaguely defined “Gateway to Work” requirement, and you begin to get the feeling that many of the people who are supposed to benefit from HIP 2.0 might not even apply for it.
And while we dither, our neighboring states gladly accept the federal dollars that have come by accepting the Medicaid expansion that is a part of the Affordable Care Act. Our tax dollars are funding their health care.
There’s more. By denying this expansion, we are depriving Hoosiers of the chance to go for more than 30,000 new jobs that experts believe will be created in Indiana’s health care industry.
The easiest answer, of course, is to follow the path of these other states and sign onto the Affordable Care Act. But acceptance of that plan would be admitting the president had the right solution to our health care woes. Such admissions are not politically acceptable.
Far better to turn Indiana into a grand laboratory for experimenting with the lives of those who do not have the ability to wield great influence in the halls of our Statehouse. Whatever happens to them won’t hurt the governor one bit.
But we have wandered down this path before, and for those of us who remember our previous governor’s disastrous efforts to privatize welfare services, I should think we have learned better lessons than simply putting on a blindfold and swinging at whatever targets might be within our reach.
Unlike our governor, I have spent a good deal of time talking to people in my district who want affordable health care, but just aren’t sure how they can get it. They read about HIP 2.0, but they don’t understand why it isn’t available now. They wonder when it will be available. They want to know what will be covered under this plan. They want to know what it will cost.
I would love to have the answers, but I don’t know when I can give them.
I do know this. These folks should not be blamed for their lot in life. They should be applauded for simply wanting to take care of themselves and their families.
Why should they be lab rats?