Gov. Eric Holcomb wants some Medicaid recipients to work – Indianapolis Star

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Indiana’s version of Medicaid, the Healthy Indiana Plan, offers much more than just access to lower-cost health insurance. It also can provide help in finding a job, housing, and transportation as well as a free cellphone and access to educational services.
Dwight Adams/IndyStar

WASHINGTON – Gov. Eric Holcomb is seeking permission from the federal government to require some Medicaid recipients to work or do work-related activities.

Indiana’s governor announced Wednesday he’s amending the state’s application for its alternative Medicaid program to ask for that — and other changes — as the federal government decides whether to keep the Healthy Indiana Plan going past this year.

Holcomb said his request is in response to encouragement from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma — a former Indiana health care consultant who helped create HIP, Indiana’s Medicaid program. After joining the Trump administration, Price and Verma told governors they want to give states more freedom to run their Medicaid programs.

It’s unclear, however, how much leeway the federal government has within the law to allow states to impose work requirements or some other changes.

But the House version of the Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would change the law to allow states to impose work requirements for able-bodied recipients.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported last year that 59% of all Medicaid beneficiaries who were not receiving disability payments were working. If they weren’t, they were either sick, taking care of a family member or in school.

Holcomb said Indiana needs a healthy workforce and his proposed change would help the state meet the demand for new workers expected over the next decade.

The requirement would be phased in and would not apply to some participants, including pregnant women, those being treated for substance abuse, the medically frail and those older than 60.

In the request the state filed to amend its renewal application submitted earlier this year, Holcomb is also asking for changes that would make it easier to expand drug abuse treatments and would simplify administration of the monthly payments recipients are required to make if they are above poverty or are in poverty but want to access a higher level of benefits.

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Participants pay up to 2 percent of their income into a monthly Personal Wellness and Responsibility Account, which helps pay for their care, the key feature of HIP 2.0.

The program — which provides health care to more than 400,000 Hoosiers — has the enthusiastic support of Indiana’s hospitals, the insurance companies which offer the Medicaid plans, and some groups in the state which had urged Indiana to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

But many – including some participants – complain the program is too complicated and confusing, isn’t as effective as traditional Medicaid and hasn’t proven that its “consumer-driven” components make patients better health care consumers.

The public can comment on the state’s latest proposed changes for the next 30 days.

The federal government does not have a deadline to respond. But the state has said federal officials have been working expeditiously on their renewal application.

Contributing: Jayne O’Donnelly, USA TODAY.

Contact Maureen Groppe at mgroppe@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mgroppe.

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