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The Journal Gazette

  • Cathy Pollick

Thursday, December 03, 2015 4:40 am

A plan that works

Indiana’s alternative to Medicaid expansion is proving to be a huge success.

As The Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly reported recently, HIP 2.0 has enrolled 177,000 people since the federal government approved the plan early this year. Since its kickoff on Feb. 5, the program also has absorbed about 110,000 people from other state medical programs.   

HIP 2.0 was an expanded version of the original Healthy Indiana Plan, which never carried more than about 50,000 enrollees. So the new program and its organizers, including Gov. Mike Pence, deserve credit for the logistical accomplishment alone.

The real accomplishment, though, is that Indiana now offers a path to health coverage for people who are too poor to qualify for Obamacare’s tax credits and would have been making too much money to be covered by traditional Medicaid.  

Of course, the state could have provided care to the same group by simply accepting the Medicaid expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act. But unlike other Republican governors who continue to pass up billions of dollars for coverage of their state’s poor, Pence has been able to convince the feds to allow Indiana to use HIP’s structure to deliver coverage. He contends that HIP 2.0, which requires those enrolled for the full “HIP-Plus” version of coverage to contribute 2 percent of their income, brings better results because it forces individuals and families to take more responsibility for their own health care. Though the governor has been criticized by those on the far right for selling out to the advocates of universal health care, the concept is vintage conservatism.

But ideological squabbles melt into irrelevance when a program shows the kind of results of HIP 2.0.

In Allen County, Kelly reported, more than 12,000 residents are enrolled – up from 3,000 in January.

The Neighborhood Health Clinics, Inc., one of several sites in Allen County where people can sign up for coverage, has completed 754 HIP 2.0 applications since February, according to Cathy Pollick, the clinics’ outreach and enrollment coordinator. “That number in itself shows it is most definitely working,” she said. Statewide, she noted, 71 percent of those signing up are choosing HIP-Plus, “which is where we want them to be.” HIP-Plus includes dental and vision coverage and fewer copays, so those enrolled are more likely to seek the kind of coverage that improves long-term health.

According to Mary Haupert, president and CEO, 72 percent of the patients seen by the clinic in 2013 were uninsured. With the start of Obamacare, that dropped to 54รข percent in 2014.

With the addition of HIP 2.0, she said, the numbers this year will be even lower.

“There are small glitches,” Haupert said, “but it’s doing well.”

Nationally, and in many states, Republicans are vulnerable to the charge that they oppose health care reform without offering workable alternatives. That’s one charge that won’t stick against Indiana, or Mike Pence.