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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 4:33 am

HIP 2.0 rollout 'fantastic'

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The state’s Medicaid alternative – HIP 2.0 – has gotten off to a fast start, enrolling 177,000 new Hoosiers since Feb. 1.

In addition, about 110,000 people in existing state coverage programs were folded into the revamped Healthy Indiana Plan, bringing the total of people in low- or middle-income brackets receiving health insurance to roughly 283,000.

A $2 million statewide advertising campaign starting Monday is expected to reach another round of uninsured Hoosiers – bringing the total enrolled to about 357,000 by the end of the year. That campaign is being handled by Asher Agency in Fort Wayne.

About 71 percent of those enrolled are on the HIP Plus plan, which requires the enrollee to contribute 2 percent of his or her annual family income to a health savings account each month.

An individual with an annual income of $10,000 would pay about $16 a month, according to an online calculator. A family of four making $32,000 would pay more than $50 a month.

This is more than the original proposal, which called for charging $1 to $25 a month, depending on income.

HIP Basic does not require a monthly premium but offers fewer benefits, and users have copays for service.

"The program is off to a fantastic start," said Joe Moser, director of Medicaid at the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. "People are finding value in the coverage and are very thankful they have an option."

He added that one criticism heard from the federal government and others was that people at this income level would not contribute toward their own health care.

"But they are," Moser said. "They see the value in doing so and engaging in their own health care, which is awesome."

HIP covers Hoosiers with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of just less than $33,000 for a family of four.

Those with incomes above 138 percent of the poverty level can access tax credits to help them pay for health insurance through the federal exchange.

About 800,000 aged, blind and disabled Hoosiers also are still on traditional Medicaid, which does not require participants to share in the costs.

The HIP program is paid largely by federal dollars provided through the federal Affordable Care Act. State dollars from a hospital fee and cigarette tax cover the state portion of the program.

The current HIP enrollment comprises mostly women – about 71 percent. Similarly, about 72 percent of the participants are white, with 19.4 percent black.

The majority of those covered are between the ages of 20 and 40.

About 130,000 enrollees have incomes below 5 percent of the poverty level, and 90 percent of those on the program make less than 100 percent of poverty level.

In Allen County, more than 12,270 residents are enrolled in HIP – a jump from 3,000 in January.

Every county in Indiana has at least several hundred on the program. The largest participation is 46,885 in Marion County and 23,045 in Lake County.

The upcoming advertising campaign hopes to reach out to pockets of uninsured in some areas of the state, including several rural areas, as well as to black Hoosiers who qualify.

The cost to the state for the campaign is between $1.1 million and $1.2 million with a similar amount from the federal government, said Jim Gavin, director of communications for FSSA.

He said focus groups revealed that the state needs to reiterate the new program and what it covers versus the original HIP, which had enrollment caps and other limitations.

Television, radio, newspaper, billboards and other ads will be part of the campaign focusing on what Hoosiers go without – for example, cancer screenings or preventive dental care – because they don’t have insurance.

Moser said the agency is seeing a high use of the dental services covered in the Plus program.

"We’ve heard some tremendous stories about people who have gotten services that they have never gotten before because (they) now have a source of coverage," he said. "We have people in their 40s and 50s going to the dentist for the first time."

Anyone below 100 percent of the federal poverty line is placed in the HIP Plus plan. This requires a monthly contribution to the POWER account, depending on income. It also provides access to dental and vision coverage, fewer treatment limitations, a better prescription plan and no copays.

Enrollees who do not pay the monthly contribution get defaulted to the HIP Basic plan, which has reduced benefits, more prescription restrictions and no dental or vision coverage. Most importantly, that plan requires copays for all health care services except preventive and family-planning services.

Those between 100 percent and 138 percent go to HIP Plus automatically. If they don’t make their monthly contribution, their coverage is suspended for six months. There is no access to the basic plan at this income level.

nkelly@jg.net