By Jacob Rund
Gov. Mike Pence said Wednesday he isn’t as concerned that his proposed expansion of the Healthy Indiana Plan receives federal approval on his original timeline of Jan. 1 – as long as it is eventually approved in its original format.
The Pence administration submitted its request to the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration in July, asking to use federal dollars to implement HIP 2.0, as it is more commonly called, as the state’s expansion of Medicaid – which is called for under the Affordable Care Act.
The state and federal government have been in negotiations since the summer, but the governor said he remains confident that an agreement will be reached, even if it isn’t by his original deadline.
“I continue to remain hopeful that we will be able to secure that approval from the federal government,” Pence said. “But the timing to me is secondary to wanting to make sure that we preserve the essential and fundamental elements of the Healthy Indiana Plan’s framework. It’s more important to me that we get it right and that we get it done.”
The main hang up, Pence said, is the difference between the state’s “consumer-driven healthcare” model and traditional Medicaid.
Both the current and proposed Healthy Indiana Plans are built around the idea of POWER accounts – health savings accounts to which HIP consumers are required to make an initial payment upon enrollment and then contribute on a monthly basis. This is in contrast with Medicaid, which provides free healthcare coverage for low-income families and individuals.
Pence has called for federal approval of HIP 2.0 for several months and has even taken up the issue with President Barack Obama.
In October, the president visited a steel distributor and gave a speech in Princeton for National Manufacturing Day. Upon the arrival of Air Force One at Evansville Regional Airport, Pence met the president on the tarmac and spoke with him for roughly 10 minutes regarding the expanded Healthy Indiana Plan.
“We’ve been working personally and directly with Secretary Sylvia Burwell (of Health and Human Services) on this issue,” Pence said. “And what I communicated to her, and what I told the president when he and I met two months ago on this issue, is that the Healthy Indiana Plan is not a proposal, it’s a program. It’s been working.”
Currently, close to 60,000 Hoosiers are enrolled in the Healthy Indiana Plan, and the governor plans to use HIP 2.0 as a way to cover an additional 350,000 residents who are without health insurance.
Although the expanded HIP program might not be approved by the first of the year – or at all – Pence said that he has taken steps to make sure the state is ready to implement the program as soon as Health and Human Services makes a decision.
“We have been working very diligently from this summer forward to help prepare to implement the Healthy Indiana Plan as soon as the federal government approves it,” Pence said. “I’ve made it clear to officials in Washington D.C. that as soon as they give us the green light on HIP 2.0, we are ready to start implementing that plan in short order.”
Jacob Rund is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.