Hoosiers hear from both sides on health care debate

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The battle over health care is still heating up here in Indiana – with lawmakers and officials squaring off over to how implement certain aspects of the law still to take effect.

It’s also a hot topic at this week’s Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration, where IBE hosts the nation’s largest health fair for minorities.

“People are not getting their medicine every month like they’re supposed to,” said Johnnie Lewis, who attended the health fair with her daughter. Through the years, Lewis has dealt with all kinds of problems with family members trying to get Medicaid coverage. She wants the state to expand Medicaid, and she’s tired of all the bickering.

“They need to realize it’s not about them, it’s the people that need help,” said Lewis.

From different sides of the health care debate, Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Joe Donnelly both spoke Friday at IBE’s annual Summer Celebration luncheon.

“For me, that’s a question of what’s in the best interest of Hoosiers’ health and the fiscal health of our state,” Gov. Pence told reporters.

“It’s not about Democrats or Republicans,” said Sen. Joe Donnelly. “It’s about good health care for every citizen.”

Sen. Donnelly voted for the health care bill but recently backed a measure many businesses support, one that would define a “full-time worker” as one that works 40 hours a week, eliminating the requirement mandating insurance coverage for part-time workers. Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced it was delaying the mandate for businesses due to confusion over that requirement.

For his part, Governor Pence has asked the federal government for a waiver that would allow the already-existing Healthy Indiana Plan to be used as the framework for a potential expansion of the state’s Medicaid coverage. State officials are still negotiating that issue with the federal government, but in the past, Pence said it was the only way he would support an expansion. Indiana officials have also decided against the idea of creating a state-run health care exchange, a decision that Donnelly criticized.

“We didn’t see the value in Indiana establishing a state-based exchange, and incurring the cost of that,” said Pence.

“When you make an effort like Ohio did where they have their own exchanges, the rates actually came in lower than expected,” Donnelly said. “There’s no reason it shouldn’t be the same in Indiana, if we put the same amount of effort in.”

“Obviously, my objective is not to increase the rolls of Medicaid,” said Pence. “I’d like to decrease the rolls of Hoosiers on Medicaid by creating more good paying jobs with good benefits.”

But Lewis has a different take altogether.

“I think they should quit worrying about what their differences are,” Lewis said. “And worry about what the people’s complaints and problems are.”