Bill requires negotiation on Medicaid expansion

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Whether you call it Obamacare, as Republicans do, or the "Affordable Care Act", as the President does, health care reform arrives at the first of the year.  And the state of Indiana still hasn't decided if it will take part.

One of the biggest elements in the Affordable Care Act is the expansion of Medicaid.  States can choose to take part or to be left out.  It's up to the governor.  In Indiana an expansion of Medicaid could mean health insurance for 400,000 people who currently have none.

Governor Mike Pence says he will consider expanding coverage only if the federal government agrees to use the Healthy Indiana Plan instead of Medicaid.  GOP leaders in the General Assembly agree.  "The blanket expansion of Medicaid is not the right course now," said House Speaker Brian Bosma last week.

Democrats state their case on posters outside the House Chamber showing how every surrounding state is on board with a Medicaid expansion.  They believe partisan ideology is in the way.  "Look, our nation decided this," said Minority Leader Scott Pelath in response to Bosma.  "We have to make it work for Indiana."

Monday a House Committee made a bi-partisan attempt at finding common ground.  It voted to change a bill originally designed to give the Pence Administration the authority to negotiate with the federal government.  Under the bill now, it's no longer an option.  "It does require the administration to at least try to strike a deal," said Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany.)

The new bill passed on an 8-to-5 vote with both Republicans and Democrats showing support.  "We need to look at the bigger picture of how do we get healthcare coverage for the largest number of Hoosiers possible," said Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary.)  "If we don't do something," said Rep. Steve Davisson (R-Salem.) "we're gonna leave a lot of folks in trouble."

A spokesperson for the Pence Administration said it needs time to study before it takes a position on the bill but the Senate author, Pat Miller, said she's now opposed to it.  The bill now heads to the House floor where a bill calling for a Medicaid expansion died without a vote earlier this year.

As you watch this debate, it may be helpful to remember that, while in Congress, Mike Pence once compared healthcare reform to 911, a remark he later apologized for.

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