IN Focus: Holcomb, Donnelly talk health care, federal funding

RICHMOND, Ind. – Surrounded by affected family members, health care providers and lawmakers, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said “nothing that we have done this session will be more important" than the state’s drug crisis.

Holcomb ceremonially signed four bills at the Richmond State Hospital targeting treatment and prevention, alongside allowing local officials to begin needle exchange programs without having to seek state permission.
“It literally affects every facet of what we do in public service,” Holcomb said. “And seeing everybody here today speaks volumes.”

The measures are part of an ongoing focus in the Indiana General Assembly, and one of the biggest issues in Holcomb’s agenda, to reduce the number of overdoses and deaths linked to drugs.

But as state officials gathered to tout successes in Indiana, millions of dollars in assistance from Washington could soon change.

The U.S. Senate health care bill proposes an overhaul to Medicaid including potential funding cuts.

“It’s a big partner,” said State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) of the federal government. “But Indiana has to make decisions on their own.”

Indiana expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act through HIP 2.0, a program ushered in and championed by Vice President Mike Pence.

State officials said last year 55,828 Hoosiers received drug treatment through HIP 2.0 alone, a program nearly fully paid for by the federal government. Indiana law requires the program to be phased out if federal funding is cut, as the Senate plan dictates, unless new funding options are secured.

“I don’t want to lose the program,” Holcomb said. “I think that needs to be in the mix and secondly, we need to make sure we have partners at every level.”

About one if five Hoosiers are covered by Medicaid, totaling roughly 1.4 million residents statewide. And a growing number of governors and U.S. Senators have voiced concern about what a reduction in overall Medicaid funding would mean for the nation’s opioid crisis.

“So we hope whatever comes out of Washington D.C., when and if it does, that it takes into account the success stories like we have that we’re able to share in the state of Indiana,” Holcomb said.

State officials have said discussions are in place should federal funding be reduced, but a specific analysis of a potential impact has yet to be made public.

But in recent days, Senate Republicans have also talked about adding 45 billion dollars into the bill to deal specifically with funding the war on drugs.

“As soon as the federal government figures out what they’re gonna do, we’ll react,” Merritt said. “But I feel we’re on our own right now, and we need to operate on our own.”

In the video above, see more of our interview with Gov. Holcomb and see what Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is saying about the GOP health care proposal and why he thinks it will be bad for Hoosiers.