Senate Appropriations Committee

The Senate Appropriations Committee in session on Feb. 7, 2019.

INDIANAPOLIS — A House-approved plan allowing some of the Region's sickest children to be treated at a Chicago hospital, instead of having to travel with their families to Indiana's capital city, is poised to be gutted Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Multiple sources tell The Times that House Bill 1238 will be stripped of all its provisions and rewritten as a recommendation to the Legislative Council that it consider assigning the issue to a summer study committee.

State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, the Senate sponsor of the measure, did not answer several telephone calls Wednesday night seeking comment on the possible committee action.

Currently, the measure would require Indiana 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 reduced Medicaid rates typically paid to out-of-state health care providers.

There so far is no indication that the University of Chicago, which annually treats about 495 Hoosier children ages 6 and under, has any plans to stop serving Indiana families, even though it's doing so for approximately half what Riley is paid by the state.

But state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, the House sponsor, said he's concerned that might not always be the case, if, for example, a financial crisis forced the Chicago hospital to consider whether it's worth the $2.5 million it's losing each year by serving Indiana children.

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Soliday explained that his legislation, in effect, creates a study for gathering data on how much it would cost, and how many more children might be treated, if Indiana paid the same Medicaid rates to out-of-state hospitals as it pays for in-state health care.

He noted that Hoosier leaders have decided it's not worth duplicating in Northwest Indiana some of the more extensive hospital services available just across the state line in Chicago, such as a top-level trauma center and neonatal care unit.

"They have something that we don't want to build, and we're taking advantage of them instead of paying them just what we pay other hospitals," Soliday said. "The point of the bill is to understand it better."

Even if the original measure is gutted, because it passed the House — 92 to 0 — it would be eligible for insertion in any other health proposal advancing through the General Assembly, or could be added to House Bill 1001, the two-year state budget.

"They might see it again," Soliday said.

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