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Iowa plan ruling bodes ill for HIP coverage

The federal government has granted Iowa’s request to be allowed to channel Medicaid expansion into a state-run plan. That could be good news for thousands of Iowans facing the loss of medical coverage when a previous state program expires at the end of this month.

But the feds disallowed a provision of Iowa’s new plan, and that could be a bad omen for those who are hoping to get approval for expansion of the Healthy Indiana Plan.

The new Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, agreed upon by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and the Democratic majority in the state’s Senate, would charge a small monthly premium to some participants who did not follow through with annual physical checkups and other requirements, according to the Des Moines Register; it was that provision that the federal government did not allow.

State Sen. Jack Hatch told the Register that he and other Democrats only voted to include the penalty premiums “because they were confident federal officials would reject that part of it.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has also asked the federal government for permission to expand his state plan, HIP, to cover many of the Hoosiers who don’t now qualify for Medicaid but who do not make enough money to qualify for subsidized coverage in the heath care marketplace. HIP is not exactly like the Iowa plan; participants in the Hoosier plan are asked to fund a portion of a personal account that they then use to pay for some medical expenses. The object, in both plans, is to get participants to take a role in their medical choices.

The Register reported that conversations between Branstad and federal officials are continuing. If the governor decides to reject the federal approval because the penalty premium can’t be charged, many of those set to be enrolled in the new state plan would be left without coverage.

But it seems likely that the federal government will have a similar objection to HIP’s copay provision, and that Pence will also have to face the stark choice of accepting that ruling or leaving many Hoosiers uninsured.

Coats helps in righting grievous error

If Department of Veterans Affairs officials had realized that Michael LeShawn Anderson was a murderer as well as a veteran, they surely would not have approved his burial, with full military honors, at the Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Mich..

The nation’s military cemeteries honor the heroism of the men and women who served our military bravely and honorably. By law, a criminal act as horrific as Anderson’s supersedes his service; his interment in a military cemetery is an affront to his victim and the honored dead.

But the ghastly mistake was not discovered until after Anderson was interred. And the VA, it turned out, is empowered to block a burial but not to disinter a body.

Anderson killed Alicia Dawn Koehl in a shooting spree in Indianapolis last year. Now her two children are without a mother, and her husband, Paul, a Snider High School graduate whose parents still live in Fort Wayne, is a widower.

Indiana Sen. Dan Coats stepped in on behalf of the family. In November, by unanimous consent, the Senate passed a measure that will allow the VA to remove Anderson’s body.

This week, 398 members of the House voted to pass the bill; the lone vote of dissent came from Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican whose reasons were not immediately available, or, to us, imaginable.

Talent nurtured here stays

Many have contributed to downtown Fort Wayne’s renaissance, but there’s no denying the significant contributions of John Urbahns, the city’s community development director. He was a key player in leading the Ash Brokerage project (artist’s rendering above) to fruition.

That’s why Urbahns’ departure for a post at Greater Fort Wayne is bittersweet news. He joins the new organization Jan. 6 as executive vice president of economic development.

The consolation to losing him as an important member of the city’s development team is that his skills and familiarity with municipal tools will be put toward the same goals, albeit from a different approach. His new post also shows the region is succeeding in keeping talent. In past years, Fort Wayne might well have lost him to a community with a more promising development record.