INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Two of the state’s top Republican lawmakers said Tuesday that they would
like to see the federal government sign off on an expansion of Medicaid
through the state’s health care plan for low-income residents, but they
added that they have little idea how soon that could happen.
U.S. Rep. Larry
Bucshon and state Rep. Tim Brown of Crawfordsville, who are both physicians,
said they would like to see the Department of Health and Human Services
approve the expansion being sought by Gov. Mike Pence through the Healthy
Indiana Plan. They also said they would like to see the federal government
be more flexible in how it lets states use Medicaid money.
The two made their
comments at the Statehouse during part of a statewide tour.
Pence secured a
one-year extension of the state program last year. But the bigger question
is whether the state will be allowed to expand coverage for those earning up
to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
“We continue to
have regular, productive discussions with HHS on an expansion of the Healthy
Indiana Plan with an eye toward an updated waiver request by the State in
the near future,” Pence communications director Christy Denault said.
Indiana is one of
many Republican-led states that have opted against expanding traditional
Medicaid under the federal health reform law. Bucshon, who represents the
8th District, said such an expansion leaves states on the hook for major
costs in the future.
“I’m glad the
governor’s office is still in negotiations with the federal government on
the Healthy Indiana Plan. I was a part of that during Gov. (Mitch) Daniels
tenure and still am and we’ll see where that goes,” Bucshon said. He added
the departure of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius could
work in the state’s favor.
“I think with Ms.
Sebelius gone, maybe the next secretary will have more of an open mind,” he
state-run plan would cost the state about the same as using Medicaid, but
Republican leaders argue the state plan promotes personal responsibility.
Democrats have been
roundly critical of the Republican efforts, dubbing Indiana an “island of
the uninsured” because neighboring states such as Ohio and Illinois accepted
the Medicaid expansion.
Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said that Republican inaction on expanding
health care coverage is costing the creation of tens of thousands of jobs
and coverage for as many as 400,000 working Hoosiers.
“Let’s quit playing
politics with the issue of Hoosiers’ health and get to work on creating a
framework to expand coverage today,” Lanane said.