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Column: Arguing once, twice, Indiana cannot afford to be part of Affordable Care Act

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As much I love the sound of my own voice, I really don’t like to repeat myself. Unfortunately, this is about to be one of those occasions.

Back in July I wrote a column arguing that the state of Indiana could not afford to participate in the Affordable Care Act. I still pretty much stand by that.

This past week, House Minority Leader Scott Pelath and Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane called on Gov. Mike Pence to go forward and participate in the ACA, which would expand Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers who currently don’t have coverage.


Their logic is that costs will drop because more people will have access to health care and the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the tab in the short run.

I wrote back in July, and I’m writing again: Does anyone really believe that in an age of budget cuts and sequestration that the federal government is really going to follow through on its promise?

Supporters of the ACA point to recent moves by governors in Ohio and Arizona to participate in the federal program as reason to participate, too. Michigan is looking to join as well. Supporters say Indiana will become an “island of uninsured.”

But with all due respect, does anyone really think that putting 500,000 people on the government dole between now and 2020 is a good idea?

Luckily, the governor and Indiana lawmakers have been hesitant to get on board this taxpayer-funded gravy train.

Pence has said he is open to participating in the ACA under the right conditions — one, that it be modeled after the Healthy Indiana Plan, which includes a co-pay for some services so that users of the system have some skin in the game. Sen. Luke Kenley, the Legislature’s budget guru, has suggested the state negotiate with the feds as well.

I argue that unless the federal government allows Indiana to use the Healthy Indiana Plan as a model, there is no way it should participate in the Medicaid expansion. It’s bad enough the state’s medical-device industry is being hit with a tax increase to help pay for the expansion. But to jump into it wholeheartedly without trying to negotiate something out of the deal is equivalent to using your adversary’s knife to cut your own throat.

The only person who would be happy about this kind of medical treatment would be Jack Kevorkian, and usually his patients didn’t stick around long enough to complain about the results.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org. He can be reached at

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