INDIANAPOLIS — Democrats in the Indiana Legislature are criticizing Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, suggesting he should have been more forthcoming about the impact several GOP proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have had on the state.
Republican efforts to repeal former President Barack Obama’s signature law appear to be dead — at least for now. But numerous measures they recently pushed in Congress would have slashed Medicaid, which Indiana relies on to fund at least 90 percent of HIP 2.0, a program that insures more than 400,000 low-income people.
Holcomb often praises HIP 2.0 as a model other states should adopt. However, as debate heated up over recent months, he repeatedly ducked questions about the potential impact of the Republican proposals. He also declined to release estimates of how much money the state stood to lose if those efforts succeeded.
“On this issue he has failed us,” Democratic Rep. Ed DeLaney, of Indianapolis, said earlier this week. “The governor’s concern should be with our health and our budget. Instead of focusing on those issues, he repeated the clichés of criticism about Obamacare.”
Holcomb justified his reluctance to discuss the amount of funding the state stood to lose, noting that many of the plans — including the most recent ones in the Senate — seemed to be in constant flux.
“The subject matter changes by the minute or every day. And so when folks are asking about financial price tags on this bill or that bill, it’s somewhat moot,” Holcomb said Thursday.
But Democrats disagreed, noting that other GOP governors in states that similarly expanded Medicaid were highly critical of plans to slash the additional money made available under Obama’s law. That includes Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich and Nevada’s Brian Sandoval.
“I would have preferred that he have been more declarative, but I also understand that (Vice President) Mike Pence is still playing a big role in this state,” said House Democratic Minority Leader Scott Pelath, alluding to Pence’s recent tenure as governor. “It’s very difficult for Republicans to admit that HIP 2.0 is merely Obamacare.”
The HIP 2.0 program established under Pence was one of his biggest achievements as governor. But since becoming vice president, he has pushed legislation to repeal Obama’s law that also would unravel the program he once championed.
Holcomb was Pence’s hand-picked successor, taking Pence’s place on the ballot after Donald Trump selected him to be his vice presidential nominee last year.
Hours before the GOP repeal effort failed to advance in the Senate early Friday, Holcomb acknowledged that it could have a financial impact on the state. He also declined to rule out the possibility of raising taxes to help pay for the program, should those efforts eventually succeed.
But he still tried to steer clear of the issue, instead focusing on his frustration with Congress for a “lack of progress.”
Democratic Indianapolis Rep. Greg Porter said it was a disservice for Holcomb to be “tight-lipped” because the state stood to lose $5 billion or more a year under some GOP plans.
“I fear he feels the same frustration as many of us, but is playing the good soldier,” Porter said.