EDITORIAL: Indiana should expand Medicaid

2014-02-09T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Indiana should expand Medicaid nwitimes.com
February 09, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's continued fight against expanding Medicaid coverage for Hoosiers remains a political football. But the ones getting tackled are uninsured Hoosiers.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and City University of New York estimate 240 to 758 Hoosiers could die each year because Indiana has not opted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The report in the journal Health Affairs said many more will see their health suffer because they will skip mammograms and pap smears and will leave other conditions untreated.

This is the price of remaining uninsured.

Pence is concerned about the price of expanding Medicaid, worrying about its effect on future state budgets. But the situation is not as dire as some would have Hoosiers believe.

Under the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand Medicaid coverage to people with incomes less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That figures out to incomes up to $15,282 for an individual or $31,332 for a family of four. 

The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of new enrollees the first three years. The federal share would gradually decline to 90 percent by 2020.

Pence prefers the Healthy Indiana Plan begun by his predecessor, Mitch Daniels. That program has a long waiting list. The state aims to add 35,000 to 45,000 new enrollees, but that comes at a price — reducing the eligibility from 200 percent of the poverty level to 100 percent.

That still leaves a big gap in coverage that Medicaid expansion could address.

Pence's continued resistance to Medicaid expansion comes despite the Indiana Hospital Association's prediction that a full Medicaid expansion would create some 30,000 new jobs.

Pence said last year that Hoosiers who are uninsured can still get health care at emergency rooms. That response is short-sighted. Emergency room care is more costly than a family doctor.

It's time to expand Indiana's Medicaid program, following the federal guidelines. Set ideology aside and focus on helping Hoosiers get the care they need.

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