By Megan Banta
INDIANAPOLIS – As Indiana lawmakers prepare to debate how they’ll implement the federal health care law, Democratic leaders on Friday called for the state to expand its Medicaid program.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said the governors of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois are moving forward with plans to implement Medicaid expansion envisioned in the law.
“I don’t think we want to be known as the island of the uninsured,” Lanane said. “We need to move forward with a real plan.”
The House and Senate public health committees have both scheduled hearings for Wednesday on measures that would expand Medicaid – as long as certain conditions favored by the Republican-dominated legislature are met.
House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said the General Assembly needs to debate “the great issue of our time,” which he said is covering every uninsured Hoosier through President Barack Obama’s signature law.
Pelath said House Democrats have drafted amendments that “will take advantage of our potential under the Medicaid program to make sure that hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers are covered” and that make sure that “Washington isn’t going to run our health care program.”
Lanane said Senate Democrats plan to offer up similar amendments, as well as a concrete plan for implementing “this wonderful health care plan for the state of Indiana.”
Pelath said the health care law has several benefits if implemented fully, including the potential for thousands of private-sector jobs in the health care industry as well as lower premiums and costs for health care because fewer Hoosiers would make emergency room visits that they can’t afford.
Pelath and Lanane both said they are open to other ideas, including expanding the current Healthy Indiana Plan, but they want Republicans to engage in the debate.
“If they need to complain about it the whole time they’re doing it, that OK, as long as it gets done,” Pelath said.
Megan Banta is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.