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Comer Children's Hospital

Comer Children's Hospital at University of Chicago

INDIANAPOLIS — Five Northwest Indiana lawmakers are asking that a legislative study committee be charged with evaluating Medicaid payment rates to out-of-state children's hospitals, after legislation addressing the issue last week failed to win final approval before the General Assembly adjourned for the year.

House Bill 1238 never advanced out of a House-Senate conference committee, due in part to the Senate gutting a House-approved plan for Indiana to pay the University of Chicago children's hospital the same Medicaid rates it pays for Hoosier children treated at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, said it didn't make sense for Indiana to seek federal approval for a payment deal with one Chicago hospital, when several regions of the state are similarly impacted by the sharply reduced rates Indiana pays for Medicaid-covered treatments at out-of-state facilities.

The letter to the Legislative Council requesting the issue be assigned to a study committee suggests that Northwest Indiana children, particularly those requiring the highest level of neonatal care, are most at risk if Indiana's low out-of-state Medicaid payment rates someday result in a loss of access to the most advanced care at the closest capable hospital, which is in Illinois.

"Certain out-of-state hospitals that provide Level IV neonatal care for young children have indicated that they may not be able to accept Hoosier children covered by Medicaid as patients if their reimbursement rates are not increased to match the rates that hospitals in Indiana currently receive," the lawmakers said.

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The letter was signed by state Reps. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso; Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster; Earl Harris Jr., D-East Chicago; state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes; and Charbonneau.

More than one hundred study committee requests annually are submitted to the Legislative Council, which is composed of the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Indiana House and Senate.

Typically, only about two dozen or so topics each year win the bipartisan vote required for official assignment to a study committee. 

The Legislative Council is likely to announce this year's study committee topics in late May.

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