Indiana’s HIP 2.0: It’s Still Obamacare Expansion

Thanks to for the photograph above

MUNCIE, Indiana – Governor Mike Pence has completed his statewide public relations campaign for his “healthcare alternative” to the Federal government expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. As our former congressman, Mike Pence spent countless hours on Fox news rallying against “Obamacare” and voted over 40 times to repeal it. He even encouraged the Supreme Court to rule against its constitutionality. Despite countless hours of energy wasted and probably millions of taxpayer dollars squandered, it’s still the law and has been implemented in over half the United States.

Then, we have those hold out states who are ruled by the Republican Governors Association. They’ve stood against Obamacare and the Federal expansion of health insurance as trying to cover more US citizens and control runaway health care costs. They even got the Supreme Court to rule in their favor so they could refuse Medicaid expansion – government-run insurance which strictly helps the most impoverished citizens in their states. It left over 9 million of the neediest Americans without health care insurance throughout 2013 and 2014. Politics over people.

One could say that Mike Pence’s stance against Federal insurance expansion got him elected as Governor of our Hoosier state because of all the Tea Party fervor which took place within 2012 in Indiana. Giant swaths of uninformed Hoosiers who sit in front of Fox news gobbling up conservative propaganda couldn’t wait to get their white-haired evangelical congressman into the governor’s mansion.

Well, Gov. Pence has stood strong against the Federal expansion of Medicaid up until yesterday. He sent his Hoosier Insurance Plan (HIP 2.0) proposal to the federal government asking for a waiver from Obama’s administration, so he can still collect federal dollars to fund HIP 2.0 –  a complete reversal of his stance as an anti-government Tea Partier. In fact, his $16.0 billion price tag for HIP 2.0 will need $14.5 billion in federal funds with the rest coming from a tobacco and hospital tax.

Governor Pence has taken his public relations campaign all around Indiana seeking feedback for HIP 2.0, and most everything we’ve read in Hoosier newspapers has been positive – he’s been praised from all the Gannett owned Indiana newspapers and even those not owned by Gannett. I’m on the mailing list of Freedom Works, a conservative political advocacy group fronted by the billionaire Koch brothers, and they’ve not said a word about Mike Pence’s HIP 2.0.

Where are all the anti-government protestors? Has Governor Pence baffled them by altering the concept from “government-run” insurance (Medicaid) to “consumer-driven” insurance (HIP 2.0)?

Here’s a hint for our few conservative readers – you’ve been duped again – he’s putting lipstick on the pig, but it’s still a pig.

If you look through the brilliantly displayed rainbow colors of smoke and creatively placed mirrors, you can still see a health insurance program funded 91% by the Federal government – Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion – “the most vile of entitlement programs for work eligible able-bodied men and women.”

And, not one single word by all the Billionaire funded think tanks, libertarians, Austrian-economic professors, free market societies across the land. Nary a word.

There is a short article in the Washington Times which states, “The expansion should be rejected,” author Nina Owcharenko added. “The result of this waiver agreement will have a lasting effect – well beyond this governor’s term in office — on the state of Indiana, Medicaid, and taxpayers.” They were referring to an analysis completed by the Heritage Foundation. This package has been spun so well, once it unravels, it’s going to hurt. Just like most republican programs. Remember, the trickle down economic theory of the late president Ronald Reagan? Thirty years later, we learned it trickled-up. #EpicFail.

As we wrote about in May, Governor Pence wrote a letter to then Governor Mitch Daniels back in 2012, telling him what his opinion of Obamacare and Medicaid expansion meant to Hoosiers and Americans – he wrote, “It is not merely a government takeover of health care, but, as the Supreme Court recently concluded, it is a massive tax increase on Hoosiers and small business owners.

However, he’s been touring the state promoting his plan supported by federal dollars, yet not a word by Gannett newspapers or their counterparts. Editorial opinions have all applauded his move to help the poorest Hoosiers. The same newspapers and media outlets who screamed the loudest at President Obama for expanding Medicaid into the states to cover our poorest Americans, are now applauding Pence for doing the same thing. They’re opening up their editorial pages for Pence’s public relation staff to sell Hoosiers on HIP 2.0. They’ve even touted that Pence should now be taken seriously as a presidential candidate in 2016.

Let’s take a closer at HIP 2.0.

In order to make the hospital lobbyists happy, Pence agreed to make the effective start date January 1st, 2015, and increase the Medicaid payout ratio from 60 percent of Medicare to 75 percent, thus making it more attractive for healthcare providers, but passes those costs along to taxpayers.

It should be obvious why the hospitals backed Pence’s plan – actually, they helped him underwrite it. They are also pushing for a  start date of January 1, 2015 since they’ve lost millions of dollars in revenues because of Pence’s refusal to accept Medicaid expansion in 2014 leaving billions of federal dollars in Washington hurting regional hospitals across the state.

However, from what we’ve been told, the rush of a January 1st, 2015 roll-out has come at a high price for Pence’s administration – the roll-out of HIP 2.0 (if approved) will be without his hand-picked health care leader, Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Debra Minott. She quit, but is not saying why. While she’s refusing to comment publicly about her departure, a close source revealed, “She didn’t believe the January 1, 2015 roll-out was possible.”  She had been noticeably absent from many of the meetings with hospital officials.

According to many of the healthcare numbers floating around, increasing the capacity from 40-45,000 current HIP members to over 400,000 HIP 2.0 members will stretch the FSSA beyond its capacity. We’re sure Ms. Minott knew it too, and saw how Kathleen Sebelius was treated last year when the pressure of ACA’s roll-out caused computers to crash exposing a vulnerable technology system. She probably remembers the drilling Sebelius took from republicans and thought, “Thanks, but no thanks!”

Ms Minott was a well-respected administrator with a leadership background. She was replaced by a Carmel psychiatrist. This should make Hoosiers and million dollar hospital executives very nervous – we’ll see what happens.

No matter how much smoke and mirrors with dropping balloons and Gannett op/ed pages are printed, the fact remains – the anti-government Tea Partier has accepted Obamacare federal dollars – it’s expanding an “entitlement” and accepting federal tax dollars – the exact thing Pence has opposed for years, but nobody is calling him a hypocrite within Indiana. Not one newspaper has the testicular fortitude to call our governor out for what he is – a hypocrite who needed to rebundle Obamacare so it would make him look like an innovator.

The original HIP was funded by a cigarette tax, but there aren’t enough smokers in the United States to fund his HIP 2.0. He hasn’t innovated anything, except for a potentially more expensive program which Hoosiers will get stuck paying for long after he’s gone to whatever political appointment will have him.

The fact our Gannett owned newspapers in this state refuse to properly inform Hoosiers is why we always end up holding the bag for these political schemes and nobody gets held accountable. The newspapers in this state just cover up the bone headed schemes because they were complicit by not informing their readers.

But, don’t take it from us. Read this Forbes analysis from Josh ArchambaultJonathan Ingram and Christie Herrera from back in May—Mr. Archambault and Ms. Herrera are Senior Fellows, and Mr. Ingram Director of Research, at the Foundation for Government Accountability:

Thankfully, other reformers know otherwise. Leaders in Florida, Kansas and Louisiana have pursued meaningful reforms to their existing Medicaid safety nets without caving to ObamaCare’s misguided Medicaid expansion. Rather than focus on improving the existing Medicaid program, as these states have, Pence has focused on putting window dressing on a new entitlement for able-bodied adults without children.

Grace-Marie Turner says this is “probably as much as Indiana could get” from the Obama administration. It’s hard to imagine them getting much less. If the deal goes through, Indiana will have capitulated to an ObamaCare expansion and lost the flexibility it had previously secured in the process. It will have created a new entitlement for able-bodied adults and left a broken safety net largely untouched for the truly needy.

Ms. Turner is right that Arkansas and Iowa were duped by the Obama administration’s false promise of flexibility and free money. Indiana is no different.


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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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