Under Mitch Daniels, the agenda of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce blossomed, from the abolishment of collective bargaining, to the so-called “Right To Work” legislation, to the implementation of Daylight Saving Time without the logical return to the Central Time Zone. Each of these measures hurt working Hoosiers. The already low-tax state can now boast of a balanced budget – even though it was balanced by cutting health and education spending to the bone. Daniels, and his protégé, Gov. Mike Pence, boast that our financial house is in better order than any other in the Midwest. Consequently, we’ve lost what little Indiana provided in government services.
Because of his promise (or threat, as the case may be) to follow the Daniels agenda to the letter, along with his added proclivity to involve himself in the Tea Party’s favorite social issues, I cannot think of any Indiana governor in my
50-year lifetime who has taken office with lower expectations. We all know Pence aspires to higher office someday (provided a majority of the rest of the country would actually agree with a man whose views are somewhat to the right of Mitt Romney’s), so he plans to quietly continue his dismantling of President Obama’s agenda here in Indiana.
Unfortunately, I fear such a narrow-minded partisan agenda will result in Pence’s first major disaster. He threatens to reject the president’s expansion of Medicaid, making Indiana the only Midwestern state to deny health insurance to those unable to afford it. It would then be every working Hoosier’s dream to never develop a serious illness nor give birth to a special-needs child. In such cases, it would make sense to move to another state. And it doesn’t have to be progressive Minnesota. Any other Midwestern state will do. Even Kentucky.
Now before you say, “Hoosiers hate big government,” let’s examine the numbers, shall we? We know approximately 800,000 Hoosiers lack health insurance. We know the Affordable Care Act will provide Medicaid coverage to over half of them. According to a Harvard study, a minimum of one Hoosier per day would be saved from a needless preventable death. I’ve heard many people say they’re afraid to see a doctor because they can’t afford health insurance, let alone the co-pays and deductibles.
Currently, Medicaid is available only to the destitute. If a family makes more than $2,990 per year, it makes too much to qualify. Under the AFC, that number increases to $30,000 per year. What a blessing this would be to hard-working Hoosier families. It would eliminate the threat of financial ruin caused by an accident or illness, and would lay the foundation for preventative care for all Hoosiers – not just those who can currently afford it.
“And there goes our beloved balanced budget, right Andy?” Wrong! Experts estimate the annual cost for this Medicaid expansion is anywhere between $50 million and $150 million. While that sounds like a lot of money, keep in mind that Indiana stands to gain $1.7 billion a year, which would go to Indiana hospitals, doctors, nurses, and into the state’s economy. The federal contribution would be 11 times greater than Indiana’s contribution. A study in equally-conservative Missouri predicted 24,000 jobs would be created there. The Medicaid expansion would cover nearly all the inmates in Indiana’s prisons and could save the General Fund $100 million every year.
“But Andy, $50-$150 million is still a lot of money.” Right, but consider that
our comparatively low cigarette taxes collected for the Healthy Indiana Plan alone amount to $121 million annually. And if that amount doesn’t cover our portion of the ACA, remember that the $48 million annual cost for the state’s high-risk insurance pool would no longer be needed with the Medicaid expansion. Those two savings by themselves would cover the worst-case Affordable Care Act scenario.
Governor Daniels’ health plan was great. But now, it’s been trumped at the federal level. Yes, I know we’re a “states’ rights” kind of state here, but rejecting Medicaid would be a huge blow to Indiana. Dr. Rob Stone, director of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan, says, “The fiscally responsible thing to do is for Hoosiers to set aside our partisan differences and participate in this expansion of Medicaid. It will create jobs and strengthen our hospitals, not to mention make us healthier.”
If Hoosier lawmakers don’t take this deal, our federal tax dollars will go to states that do. So what’s to lose? Embracing the cornerstone of President Obama’s career? Come on, Governor. You’re better than that! Aren’t you?