Pence, Democrats at odds over health care application

Legislators say Pence botched application

INDIANAPOLIS - Democratic state legislators said Thursday the Pence administration botched its federal application to expand the state's health care program through the existing Healthy Indiana Plan, but the governor said everything is in order.

Democrats said Pence's people messed up by failing to comply with the public notice component of the application to expand the program.

Pence is hoping to use an expanded version of the HIP program, which provides mostly state-funded health care to the working poor, as a substitute for full-scale expansion of the Medicaid program in Indiana under the federal health care law. 

Democrats said failing to complete the federal application in time will delay the federal decision on Pence's request, endangering expansion and possibly forcing the legislature into a special session to ratify whatever compromise the state and federal negotiators might reach.

"How do we add 30,000 private-sector health care jobs? How do we make sure people are not seen in emergency rooms that are wildly expensive and extremely chaotic? We need a better health care system," said Minority Leader Scott Pelath. "But when there's all these questions about this potential HIP expansion that can't be resolved in the regular session, we have to ask the question, 'What's the game plan here?'"

But legislative Republicans, including the doctor who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, downplayed such a negative scenario and don't believe a special session would be needed, even if there were a serious delay in the approval process.

"No, not at this time," said Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville. "I don't think that we're headed toward a special session. I think we'll be able to work with the law that we have in place. We have in place the ability for the executive branch to do some negotiating with the HIP plan. So I think we'll continue to move forward."

The governor released a response later denying there was any mistake in the application process, although he did refer obliquely to bureaucratic problems in dealing with Washington.

And he said there is no reason to believe the state's application has been jeopardized.

RTV6 attempted to contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to determine if the state failed to comply with its deadlines, but has yet to receive a response.
 

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