Ind. Gov. Not Deterred By Conservative Critics Of His Health Plan

By Dan Carden, The Times, Munster, Ind.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

May 29--INDIANAPOLIS -- Gov. Mike Pence shrugged off criticism from national conservative groups that typically champion the Republican's policy goals and vowed Wednesday to press on in seeking federal approval for Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0.

"My focus is Indiana and on doing what I believe is right for the people of Indiana, and I've been very encouraged at the very broad and bipartisan support that our Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 has received across the state," Pence said. "I'm proud of the work we've done."

Under HIP 2.0, the state would use federal funds generated by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to pay for a high-deducible health program for some 450,000 able-bodied, low-income Hoosiers -- as an alternative to expanding Medicaid eligibility.

Conservatives from the Heritage Foundation, Chicago'sHeartland Institute and other think tanks condemned Pence this month for going after Obamacare money and seeking to use it to create a new entitlement program.

Pence doesn't see it that way.

"I remain steadfast in my belief that Obamacare should be repealed, but I've also (for many years in Congress) supported budgets that block-granted Medicaid back to the states," he said.

"What we're in effect asking for from the federal government is a waiver to treat Medicaid as a block grant; to redesign it according to the principles of the Healthy Indiana Plan and consumer-driven health care."

The governor reiterated that he vehemently opposes Obamacare's requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance. He also said Indiana won't create a state-based health marketplace or expand eligibility for traditional Medicaid on his watch.

But if the state successfully demonstrates Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 is a viable alternative to Medicaid expansion, Pence said he expects other states will create similar programs and all Americans could share in the benefits.

"I'm hopeful that Indiana is going to continue to be a national leader in the kind of health care reform that really respects the ability of every person to make decisions for themselves and their families that are in the interest of their health and well-being," Pence said.

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Federal health officials must approve the state's application to establish Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0. Pence expects to submit his proposal by the end of June.


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