Federal government approves work requirement for Healthy Indiana Plan participants

Gov. Eric Holcomb, center, speaks Friday at Indianapolis' Eskenazi Hospital after U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, left, announced that the Healthy Indiana Plan, with an employment mandate, is authorized to continue operating through 2020. At right is Dr. Jennifer Walthall, director of Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration.

Dan Carden, The Times

It's a move weaving together accountability and common sense with an attempt to create a pathway out of poverty for thousands of Hoosiers.

And its exemptions for the most vulnerable citizens remind us that compassion and accountability are not mutually exclusive given the right leadership.

On Friday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar authorized Indiana to add a work requirement to the Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP 2.0, which provides Medicaid health coverage to 440,000 Hoosiers in need.

Beginning in 2019, able-bodied adults in Indiana who do not qualify for an exemption will be required to work or take part in community service for at least 20 hours per week in eight months of the year.

If they don't comply, they're off the state health care insurance rolls.

The plan makes sense, not as a punitive measure, but as a way of forging a trail to financial independence for struggling Hoosiers.

Even if HIP recipients can't immediately find work, the mandate can be satisfied by participating in job skills training, job search activities, education programs and a host of other activities intended to improve chances of attaining gainful employment.

State data show some 140,000 Hoosiers receiving HIP will have to comply with the employment, job training or community service mandate.

Most of the others fall into exemption categories, including being medically frail, older than 60, full- or part-time student status, being a primary caretaker of young or disabled children, being pregnant, participating in substance abuse treatment and other exhaustive reasons for being unable to work.

Constructing such a mindful and common-sense plan is a tribute to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb's administration, which is breathing new life into the concept of compassionate conservatism.

Able-bodied Hoosiers receiving public aid should be required to work or seek some form of personal or job skills enrichment.

It's a potential way to battle the perpetual cycle of generational poverty and reliance on government for basic human needs.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Local News Editor Marc Chase, Lake County Editor Crista Zivanovic, Porter/LaPorte County Editor Doug Ross and Deputy Local Editor Erin Orr.