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HIP EXTENSION PROVIDES SOME CERTAINTY IN FEDERAL HEALTH-CARE OVERHAUL - STRAIGHT FROM THE SENATE

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Enrollment in the federal Affordable Care Act's insurance overhaul begins October 1, and many questions remain. What insurance plans will be offered in the online exchange? How high will the premiums be? Will this insurance process be more effective than current systems? And the list goes on.

Thankfully, the federal government has finally answered one uncertainty in regards to Indiana's health-care offerings: The Healthy Indiana Plan will continue providing affordable health-care insurance to low-income Hoosiers.

Long before the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – passed, members of the Indiana General Assembly understood that thousands of low-income Hoosiers were in need of health-care coverage. To meet those needs, lawmakers created the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) in 2007, which offers health benefits including hospital services, mental health care, physician services, prescriptions and diagnostic exams.

HIP is designed to provide health-care coverage in a more consumer-driven way than the broken Medicaid system. Everyone in HIP gets commercial health insurance, and the state pays most of the cost, but – unlike Medicaid – participants have to pay a small part of the cost, at most 5 percent of their family income.

Additionally, preventative checkups like physicals are a requirement for HIP participants because when health problems are caught early, it costs less to treat them. These required checkups are fully paid for by the state, but other types of health care require patients to contribute some of their own finances.

The Indiana legislature chose to implement HIP because it encourages participants to practice healthy behaviors, seek preventative care and limit unnecessary health-care usage by giving participants a little financial "skin in the game," instead of simply giving them a handout like Medicaid.

HIP has been a model for health-care reform for other states and has proven popular with participants. Approximately 100,000 Hoosiers have enrolled in HIP since it was created, and 94 percent of surveyed participants said they were pleased with the program.

But the passage of Obamacare threatened Indiana's innovative, fiscally sound program. The federal government wanted to force Hoosiers off of HIP and push them to use the federal Medicaid program.

After months of negotiations between Indiana officials and the Obama administration, Gov. Mike Pence announced in the first week of September that HIP received a waiver for one year, allowing Indiana to remain at the forefront of consumer-driven healthcare in the United States.

The Pence administration is hopeful that ongoing negotiations with the Obama administration will lead to a more permanent extension of HIP and possibly an expansion of HIP eligibility to more Hoosiers.

I think we can all agree that health-care costs across the country are far too high, and that insurance must be more accessible. I firmly believe home-grown, taxpayer-friendly solutions, like HIP, are the answer to addressing these concerns long term.

For now, I am grateful HIP consumers will be able to remain in control of their personal insurance needs even in this time of serious uncertainty. In the future, let's hope the federal government gives us more freedom to provide health coverage to our citizens in a way that works for Indiana.

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Senator David Long
About This Author
He is a Republican member of the Indiana State Senate representing the 16th district which encompasses Waynedale. He serves as the President Pro Tempore of the Indiana State Senate. David writes the "Straight From The Senate" column for the newspaper.
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