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State’s shameful neglect of its greatest in need

Yes, it is true that time is running short for health coverage. I certainly agree with the sentiment in Douglas J. Leonard’s piece in the March 2 Journal Gazette (“The epidemic of Indiana’s uninsured”).

I was one of the members of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan and the Indiana National Association of Social Workers to visit the Statehouse to encourage expansion of Medicaid in Indiana. Had Gov. Mike Pence changed his decision, 880,000 Hoosiers without health coverage could participate in accessing health insurance at a level that their income would allow. Dr. Rob Stone, Indiana coordinator for Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan, delivered 10,000 signatures for Medicaid expansion to Pence’s office on Feb. 19. On Feb. 24, I met with Senate President Pro Tem David Long and attempted to enlist his support for expansion of Medicaid not only for economic reasons but for humanitarian reasons. On that same date HCHP, Cover Indiana and SEIU rallied in the rotunda, then visited their individual senators and representatives.

The Affordable Care Act was passed to ensure all Americans have health insurance, no matter their income. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts wrote that each governor could choose whether to expand Medicaid in his or her state. This action guaranteed that legislation passed at the federal level, intended to affect all citizens equally, will now be enacted with inequality. Dependent on the political ideology or even personal whim of each governor, the intent of the ACA has been thwarted in 24 states. It is as if residents of some states are free to go to the doctor and receive treatment when they are sick, and residents of the other 24 states refusing the expansion of Medicaid have been denied that freedom, regardless of the intent of Obamacare. Certainly, good intentions were interpreted badly.

The Journal Gazette encourages the uninsured of Indiana to hurry and enroll in one of the four plans offered on the health care exchange under the ACA. Well, you cannot do that unless you earn at least 133 percent of the federal poverty level. You will not be allowed to purchase plans on the exchange unless you earn a certain amount of money. The ACA will not accept below 133 percent of poverty level because these people cannot afford the private plans on the exchange.

Under the ACA, those earning less than 133 percent of the poverty level should have been covered by Medicaid, had that integral part of Obamacare been accepted in Indiana as it was in Michigan and Kentucky.

Pence has chosen to ignore the information and recommendations of the Indiana NASW, whose membership works with the sick and the poor on a daily basis.

The governor has chosen to ignore the recommendations of the Indiana Hospital Association, which understands the costs to us all of not providing affordable access to hospital services. The governor has chosen to ignore the petition of 10,000 signatures delivered to his office on Feb. 19 by Dr. Stone of HCHP, as well as representatives of Cover Indiana, NASW and the SEIU.

HCHP even knows that expansion of Medicaid is not the best option for affordable and accessible health care for all.

But we accept that at this time, until the country accepts that the expansion of Medicare for all is the more effective and efficient plan to cover all Americans, the expansion of Medicaid to Indiana citizens below 133 percent of the poverty level is the only way to provide coverage to all Indiana citizens.

As I said in my oped of Dec. 28, 2013, the suffering of many lies directly at the feet of our governor. Pence has killed and cooked the goose; estimates of Hoosiers who will have no health insurance into 2020 range from 186,000 to 400,000. That is much suffering caused by Pence’s intransigence, lack of understanding and lack of respect for decent and humane treatment of those in need. Shameful.

Edith Kenna is with Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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