Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

October 28, 2013

BRIAN HOWEY: Political obstacles for an unhealthy Indiana

State GOP shows little concern for Hoosiers' well-being.

(Continued)

Unfortunately, many of our “public servants,” from Gov. Mike Pence to the congressional delegation to the Indiana General Assembly, are more concerned about low taxes and the business climate.

State Rep. Ed Clere, the New Albany Republican who heads the House Public Health Committee, was quoted in the Anderson Herald Bulletin during a health town hall meeting this past week as saying, “It’s my party that needs to be convinced, to put it bluntly,” on extending Medicaid coverage to an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Hoosiers who will lack coverage.

The political obstacle is a hatred and loathing for President Obama.

But it is coming at the expense of making wise policy decisions that can impact this crisis.

I’ll give you a prime example, and that is Gov. Pence’s decision to have Indiana opt into the federal health exchange, as opposed to creating one of its own. It was an interesting choice, given Pence’s (and many other Republicans’) view that the federal government is inefficient at just about everything it touches.

Kentucky opted for its own state-run exchange, one of 17 states to do so. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported last week Kentucky’s state-run implementation of health care reform — Kynect — has enrolled 15,000, while 272,339 people had visited the site. Kentucky had an uninsured population of 640,000.

Like Indiana, Kentucky is a so-called “red state” with a voracious opposition to Obamacare. Gov. Steve Beshear — a Democrat — has taken a lot of arrows over the exchange. “It’s amazing to me that the folks who are challenging are folks that usually think we don’t want the federal government in here,” he told WHAS-TV. “We would rather handle our own affairs.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly, who has won a congressional district and U.S. Senate race since he voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, told me, “We have over 900,000 uninsured Hoosiers. We have between 300,000 and some say closer to 400,000 who are in that gap that Indiana has no plan for at all right now. This is not meant disrespectfully, but government officials here have said, ‘Well, they can go to the emergency room.’ Well, that’s not much of a health program.”

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