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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana House unanimously approved legislation Monday to ensure the Region's premature babies and very ill young children served by Medicaid can be treated at a nearby Chicago hospital, instead of having to travel to the state's capital city.

House Bill 1238 requires the state pay the same rates for care at the University of Chicago children's hospital as it does at Indianapolis' Riley Hospital for Children, rather than the sharply reduced Medicaid rates typically paid to out-of-state health care providers.

"The University of Chicago provides excellent care for Northwest Indiana children in urgent need of treatment," said state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, the sponsor.

"By reimbursing the Chicago hospital the same as we would any other Indiana facility, Region parents and their children can continue receiving quality treatment without having to travel hours from home."

State Rep. Rita Fleming, D-Jeffersonville, who has delivered more than 7,000 babies in southern Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky, agreed the measure is critical for families with very sick children and no nearby hospital with a top-level neonatal and trauma unit.

"It's a great hardship for families when their baby is two hours away," Fleming said.

The proposal, which is co-sponsored by state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Muster, now goes to the Senate.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.