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November 25, 2013

BRIAN HOWEY: Indiana needs a comprehensive health strategy

State should be debating strategy for extending care.

Indiana needs a compre-hensive, statewide health strategy.

When it comes to the relative health and well-being of the 6.5 million Hoosiers — collectively rated as the 41st most healthy population in the U.S. and down from 37th a few years before — there is a surplus of empathy.

Gov. Mike Pence explained, “The issue of infant mortality, the issue of childhood poverty in Indiana, are two that weigh heavy on my heart. We’re going to continue to assemble the information and identify” solutions.

There is the policy debris field we know as the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, that has muddled and obfuscated a clear path forward. Last Monday, House Speaker Brian Bosma observed, “Rarely can you use ‘fiasco’ or ‘debacle’ with respect to government action. You might disagree with it, but the ACA is now a fiasco and a debacle.”

And there is a recognition that if Obamacare collapses — and it is far too early to make that determination — it will mean Congress and the state legislatures will enter a health policy triage.

“The fact is that we can’t afford the health care system that we had,” said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City and human resources director for the Swanson Center mental health facility. “You can’t sustain 20- to 25-percent premium increases every year. We can’t afford to keep sending people to emergency rooms as their only health care option.”

Senate President David Long explained, “Twenty-five states have done just like Indiana” in rejecting a Medicaid expansion. “If those states band together ... and say, ‘We’re going to have a plan ... I think you could have something there.”

The political reality is the Indiana Republican Party, dubbed the “Party of Purpose” that feeds on “Hoosier Common Sense,” controls virtually all the policy levers in this state.

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