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PENCE VS. FEDS: Administration claims authority to negotiate Medicaid

March 29, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS (HSPA) — Indiana lawmakers don’t need to approve legislation related to a Medicaid expansion because Gov. Mike Pence already has authority to negotiate with federal officials, his administration’s top human services official said Wednesday.

That was the assessment of Debra Minott, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, as she fielded questions from the House Public Health Committee. The panel has been working on a bill that would set parameters for an expansion of Medicaid through the federal health care law.

If the state opts to go forward with an expansion, around 400,000 more Hoosiers would qualify for government-funded health insurance. But the state would only do so using the health savings account-based Healthy Indiana Plan as a vehicle, Pence has said.

“We don’t want to leave an impression we’re expanding a broken system,” Minott said. The committee’s chairman, Republican Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany, said he expects lawmakers to advance legislation that would instruct Pence’s administration to negotiate within certain parameters with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on how Indiana can expand its Medicaid program and still get a federal match that amounts to 100 percent in the first three years and slowly steps down to 90 percent of the cost of the expanded population.

He underscored the narrow time frame — the legislature adjourns its 2013 session in 33 days, he told Minott — and said he wants Pence to help lawmakers figure out what should go in the final draft of Senate Bill 551, which currently instructs Pence’s administration to ask federal officials to block grant the Medicaid program to Indiana.

“This is a major policy decision,” Clere said. “And I’ll be disappointed if the legislature decides not to weigh in with substantive and meaningful legislation.”

Wednesday’s hearing was the fourth regarding the issue in recent weeks. The Senate Health and Provider Services Committee held a similar hearing, and Pence’s administration held two that were related to its application to expand Medicaid through the Healthy Indiana Plan.
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