Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 26, 2014

BRIAN HOWEY: Pence affixes a badge of pragmatism to his jacket

Governor adapts Obamacare with a compassionate, conservative stamp

When the early historical accounts of Mike Pence’s first stint as a government executive are assembled, the critical moment will likely be 10 a.m. May 15, 2014.

At that time, at the IU Health/Methodist Hospital Auditorium, Gov. Pence pushed away from the ideological trappings of a Capitol Hill Republican and became a pragmatic governor. His was not an embrace of Obamacare, but a critical mass realization he presides over an unhealthy state and to reject Obamacare outright would only continue a troubled Hoosier Jacksonian legacy that thumbs its nose at federal funding, often at great expense to its citizens decades later.

We have seen this happen before. The spurning of the school lunch program in the 1950s, Nixon era federal revenue sharing, and a failure to separate combined storm and sanitary sewers a generation ago spawned a wave of double digit rate hikes in dozens of Indiana cities.

The scenario facing Gov. Pence was a gap of 350,000 without access to health insurance, coming at a time when the state suffers high obesity, smoking, infant mortality, adult suicide, coronary and cancer rates. “The facts are clear,” Pence said. “Today we have 350,000 low-income, working Hoosiers, those below 100 percent of the federal poverty level or a family of four making about $24,000 a year or less, who lack access to the kind of quality health insurance that their better-off neighbors enjoy. Experts rightly call this the ‘coverage gap.’”

Pence didn’t necessarily embrace the Obamacare he vociferously rejected as a congressman, but instead sought its adaptation with what could be called the compassionate, conservative stamp.

“I believe there are only two futures for health care in this country, government-directed health care or consumer-driven health care,” Pence said. “Indiana chose the better portion by embracing consumer-driven health care, giving eligible Hoosiers the power to make their own health care decisions. Today we seek to build on that choice by expanding the Healthy Indiana Plan for even more working Hoosiers.”

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