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Healthy Indiana Plan participants no longer are in imminent danger of losing their Medicaid health coverage if they fail to comply with the employment mandate devised by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration recently announced it's suspending the "Gateway to Work" reporting requirement for HIP members, while lawsuits challenging Indiana's program and similar work mandates in other states are pending in federal courts.

As a result, HIP members who do not meet the 2019 work requirement, or are unable or unwilling to report their activities to the state, will not have their health coverage taken from them in January for noncompliance.

"We remain committed to operating the Gateway to Work program and to continuing to build on the early successes of the program, through which HIP members are reporting successful engagements in their workplaces, schools and communities," said Allison Taylor, Indiana Medicaid director.

When fully implemented, approximately 130,000 able-bodied, adult HIP members were expected to work, search for a job or participate in community service at least 20 hours a week as a condition of receiving state-supported health coverage.

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The mandate does not apply to some 300,000 HIP members who are full- or part-time students, pregnant women, primary caregivers for young children or disabled dependents, over age 60, medically frail, temporarily disabled, in a drug treatment program or recently released from prison.

Holcomb administration officials claimed the work mandate will benefit the state because "employed individuals are both physically and mentally healthier, as well as more financially stable, as compared to unemployed individuals."

However, in Arkansas, where a similar but more punitive mandate was authorized by the federal government, a Harvard study found the work requirement for Medicaid beneficiaries increased uninsured rates without growing employment.

Separate from the work mandate, the continued availability of HIP as a whole remains at risk due to another pending lawsuit, supported by Indiana, that seeks to deem unconstitutional the entire 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which provides nearly all the funding for the Healthy Indiana Plan.

HIP provided health coverage in September to 38,903 Lake County residents, 8,523 in Porter, and 8,390 in LaPorte, according to FSSA.

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