Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

February 27, 2013

Will Indiana turn its back on the working poor?

How is Indiana going to ensure health insurance to the "working poor?"

State Rep. Ed Clere, the New Albany Republican who chairs the House Public Health Committee, defines this estimated pool of 400,000 Hoosiers like this: "These are people who are doing exactly what Republicans want them to do. The father works in a factory. The mother is a retail clerk." They are more than likely to be Republicans.

Together, they might bring in $40,000 to $50,000 a year. But the factory and the retail store don't provide health insurance, and even if they do, in many cases it's a flimsy policy.

"If they have a major health issue, they face a financial disaster," Clere said.

Or as Dr. Aaron E. Carroll of the Indiana University School of Medicine, told the committee, "The choice for many isn't between Medicaid and some private insurance. The choice is between Medicaid and nothing."

Now, if you're poor and below the poverty level, you're covered by existing Medicaid. If you're rich or in the middle to upper levels of the middle class, your employer provides or you buy a health insurance policy that could cost your family between $10,000 and $20,000 a year.

Now, there is no question: Hoosiers don't like "Obamacare."

But here's the indisputable reality: The Affordable Care Act became a long-term reality when President Obama defeated Mitt Romney last November. It's the law of the land.

Indiana must now make decisions on how it will participate and in the next weeks and months, decisions that could impact 400,000 working Hoosiers with billions of dollars of implications will be made by Gov. Mike Pence and the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly.

The Medicaid debate came as Gov. Mike Pence - parting ways with GOP governors in Michigan and Ohio - issued an ultimatum to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleel Sebelius this past week. Pence has ruled out expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law unless Indiana gets approval to use its Healthy Indiana Plan savings accounts for the expansion.

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