STRAIGHT FROM THE SENATE

State Senator David LongIMPROVING
HEALTH CARE ON INDIANA’S TERMS,
NOT WASHINGTON’S

President Obama’s 2,400-page federal health care law that mandates drastic changes to the nation’s health care system is scary enough, but just wait until the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. get done writing thousands of more pages of rules and regulations dictating how the law is to be implemented.
Gov. Mitch Daniels and like-minded Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly are not standing idly by as if resigned to simply swallowing a bad dose of medicine. There is too much at stake for Indiana and its 6.4 million residents.

In a recent opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal, Daniels said the law will add trillions of dollars to the federal deficit. It will lead to a de facto government takeover of health care faster than most people realize. It will add millions more Americans to the Medicaid rolls, and dump millions of employees into health care exchanges – bureaucratic “market places” for people to purchase health insurance.

Commands from Washington are projected to swell Indiana’s Medicaid rolls from about 1 million now to 1.4 million after 2014, when the law is fully implemented. According to a state study, those and other effects of the federal health care overhaul will cost Indiana taxpayers between $2.6 billion to $3 billion over 10 years. Translated: that is a guaranteed state tax increase waiting to happen because there is simply no other way to pay for it.

As it stands, Obamacare may wipe out Indiana’s innovative Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), which helps tens of thousands of low-income Hoosiers who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid to purchase private health insurance with the state’s help.

People who qualify for HIP receive an account of $1,100 per year to pay for medical services, and once expenses exceed that, they are covered by traditional health insurance. Participants pay a small portion of their income into the accounts – which gives them some ownership of them.

HIP is built around three principles that make sound sense for individuals and the state. It gives individuals control and responsibility for their health care spending. It protects taxpayers from mounting debt by ensuring that enrollment cannot exceed the amount of funding available. And it encourages preventive medicine by not requiring a deductible for services like mammograms and Pap Smears.
Gov. Daniels not only wants the program to continue; he and Republicans in the Indiana Senate want it to become the plan for all Hoosiers who would be newly eligible for Medicaid under the federal health care law if it indeed takes full effect in 2014.

State senators have passed legislation that would implement such a plan, in part by lowering the financial eligibility thresholds for HIP so it would cover people who otherwise would be added to the Medicaid rolls.

Such expansion of Medicaid would take a huge financial hit on Hoosier taxpayers, since the state pays about 38 percent of the costs in the state and federal health care program for the poor and disabled. Medicaid allows co-payments and premiums, but unlike HIP, it does not require them. Doing so would encourage personal responsibility in making smart health-care decisions.
Gov. Daniels has said that he and many other governors are hoping for a judicial or congressional rescue from the “impending disaster” that many call Obamacare.

Indiana is one of 26 states suing the federal government, contending that the health care law is unconstitutional – in part because it would require individuals to purchase health insurance. Two federal judges have struck down the law, but two others have upheld it. The legal challenges could take years to play out.
President Obama has said he is willing to work with Congress in making improvements to the law. Republicans now control the U.S. House of Representatives, but Democrats still rule the Senate. It seems unlikely that a major rollback to the health care law will be made in the next two years.
As Gov. Daniels says, Hoosiers cannot count on a miracle to happen. We have to prepare for the very real possibility that the federal health care law will take full effect in 2014.

That’s what the Indiana Senate has done in passing health care legislation this session – prepared for that very real possibility. The bill is now before the Indiana House and – with Republicans in control of that chamber – its chances of passage appear promising.

At the very least, the bill will send a clear message to the federal government: If you insist on “improving” health care, let Hoosiers do it the Indiana way – not the Washington way.

David Long - IN Dist. 16 Senator

David is a former Republican member of the Indiana State Senate representing the 16th district which encompasses Waynedale. He served as the President Pro Tempore of the Indiana State Senate. David writes the "Straight From The Senate" column for the newspaper. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer