Indiana Gov. Mike Pence plans to talk with Barack Obama about the state’s low-income health care plan while the president is in Indiana on Friday for a speech about the economy.
Pence sent a request for a private meeting to the White House on Thursday morning, just a day before Obama is schedule to fly into Evansville and then travel to Princeton for an event at Millennium Steel Services.
A White House official said the “president looks forward to seeing Gov. Pence tomorrow when he arrives in Evansville.” But the official did not confirm a private meeting.
Pence, a Republican, said he wants to tell the Democratic president the state is ready to expand health care to more low-income Hoosiers but can’t move forward without permission from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Pence said negotiations with the federal agency have been ongoing.
“We have been increasingly frustrated with a lack of progress in those discussions,” Pence said. “And I’m going to take the opportunity I have tomorrow to call that to the president’s personal attention.”
Pence had already announced he intended to greet Obama when Air Force One arrives in Evansville. But he also requested a private meeting to talk about HIP 2.0, the name Pence has given to his proposed expansion of the existing Healthy Indiana Plan, which could cover as many as 350,000 uninsured Hoosiers.
The plan would replace a traditional Medicaid expansion called for by the federal Affordable Care Act. All non-disabled adults ages 19-64 who earn between 23 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible. In 2014, that means a maximum income of $16,105 annually for an individual and $32,913 for a family of four.
But federal officials have questions about the proposal, which calls for participants to pay some of the cost of the coverage or the care.
“Issues have arisen and I intend to call those to the president’s attention and ask for his help in giving the state of Indiana the flexibility to build on the Healthy Indiana Plan,” Pence said. “I want to make a very respectful case to the president that we’d like to expand coverage in Indiana but we want to do it the Indiana way.”
The White House official said federal leaders will continue talking with Indiana and other states and that “expanding Medicaid is critically important.” More than two dozen states and the District of Columbus have expanded Medicaid.
Pence already had plans next week to meet with CMS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to discuss what he called “disagreement over principle and policy.” The plan requires participants to make contributions – matched by the state – to an account that is used to pay for care. The contributions, which are essentially premiums, vary depending on income. Once the account runs dry, a more traditional insurance plan kicks in.
Medicaid doesn’t require participants to make co-pays or pay premiums and federal officials have been reluctant to approve a plan that includes those elements. But Pence said the Obama administration has twice OK’d the state’s use of the Healthy Indiana Plan on a more limited basis.
“My message is that HIP 2.0 is not an idea, it’s a program,” Pence said. “And it’s been working with great success for Hoosiers.”
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.