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Indiana health care advocates push for quick approval of Pence plan for Medicaid expansion

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INDIANAPOLIS — Health care advocates and industry lobbyists are asking federal officials for speedy approval of Indiana's Medicaid expansion request.

Leaders from the Indiana Hospital Association, the Indiana State Medical Association and other groups said during a news conference Thursday that the expansion is critical to providing care for the state's working poor.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence has proposed using the state's Healthy Indiana Plan as a basis for expanding Medicaid coverage. The proposal — named Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, or HIP 2.0 — would allow for modified health savings account plans for low-income residents and allow them to buy improved coverage.

"We think this plan will achieve the greater good of coverage for Hoosiers who have nothing today," Caitlin Finnegan Priest, director of policy and communications for Covering Kids and Families of Indiana, said in a statement. "It's our hope that the federal government will give HIP 2.0 the green light - and we'll be ready on day one to help people understand their new health care options and get enrolled."

If approved, the federal government would pick up the vast majority of the multibillion-dollar expansion. The public comment recently ended and the proposal is under review by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Pence's approach mirrors closely that of former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who first sought to use the state-run plan to expand Medicaid when it appeared that states would be forced to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law. But a 2012 Supreme Court ruling left it to the states to decide whether to expand Medicaid.

Daniels and his staff originally balked at changes sought by CMS that would have had poor residents pay for more of their Medicaid coverage. But Pence's proposal strikes a compromise by creating two levels of coverage, one baseline that does not require payments from enrollees and a second tier of improved coverage if enrollees pay a monthly fee.

The state estimates that upward of 193,000 residents would be covered under the first year of the program at a cost of $1.8 billion. By 2020 enrollment is expected to increase to 457,000 at a cost of $3.6 billion.

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