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INDIANAPOLIS | Medicare would not be affected if Indiana joins a proposed health care compact giving the state authority over health programs now run by the federal government.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday amended House Bill 1269 to exempt federal health insurance for seniors from the proposed multistate agreement.

Under the plan, which also requires approval by Congress to take effect, the federal government would provide money to states to devise new health programs to replace Medicaid and other federal health services.

"Not only should the states be entitled to further their own destiny, but the states are going to be so much more creative and ingenious and probably providing better medical services than they would just by following the federal rules," said state Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, the committee chairman.

State Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, objected to the removal of Medicare, saying it makes the proposed compact "less than whole" by keeping the federal government in control of some health spending.

Kenley said the compact idea is so new that more changes are inevitable, including possibly putting Medicare under state control.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said taking Medicare out of the proposed health care compact does little to improve the legislation.

"It's like putting lipstick on a pig," Rogers said. "I don't think there's anything you can do to make this bill better."

The legislation now advances to the Republican-controlled Senate. If approved, the Republican-controlled House would have to agree to drop Medicare from the compact before the proposal could go to the governor.

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