INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -- Getting Hoosiers access to better health care was just one promise the new U.S. Health and Human Services secretary made Friday afternoon.
Alex Azar's big announcement affects nearly half a million Hoosiers on the Healthy Indiana Plan. That's Indiana's alternative to Medicaid, the federal-state program that helps pay for health care for the needy, aged, blind and disabled, and for low-income families with children.
Azar said, "The state of Indiana has officially been granted approval for its new version of the Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP -- a three-year extension of a program that has already helped so many hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers."
Gov. Eric Holcomb, alongside Azar, said that federal extension -- with funding up to $80 million a year -- impacts over 400,000 low-income Hoosiers. It not only funds the program, it expands it.
Holcomb said, "Going forward, this is going to help us build out and really provide treatment as we attack this drug epidemic."
Those millions of dollars will go toward putting drug treatment centers and services in more places in the state. Plus, the cash will add new covered substance use services.
Dr. Jennifer Walthall, Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration secretary, said, "We have existing centers today, that when they become Medicade providers, they can start welcoming new patients for treatment. What we can also do is expand capacity because the reimbursement options are there."
The state said, starting in 2019, HIP's Gateway to Work job-training program will move from voluntary to required for for 130,000 adults.
Azar said, "HIP's community engagement and work requirement only applies to a small segment of the Medicaid-covered population, work-capable adults."
The new federal extension began Thursday, but the governor said it'll take about a year to get all those programs solidly in place.
About the expansion, Brian Tabor, president of the Indiana Hospital Association, said in a statement:
"The Indiana Hospital Association applauds the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to renew the HIP program for three additional years. We also extend our deep appreciation to Governor Holcomb and FSSA Secretary Dr. Jennifer Walthall for their unwavering commitment to maintaining this innovative and affordable option for health care coverage."
Tabor also explained how the new extension would work with hospitals.
"HIP has been a tremendous success and its continuation will lead to significant improvements in the health of our entire state. Hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers now have access to preventative care which saves lives and helps us bend the long-term cost curve. IHA and its member hospitals look forward to quickly ramping up our collaborative efforts with the State of Indiana to enroll more Hoosiers in this vital program."
About the extension, Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, a Republican from Fort Wayne, said in a statement:
"A heartfelt congratulations and thank you to Gov. Holcomb and his team on obtaining an extension for our Healthy Indiana Plan from the federal government. HIP has been a great success, providing health care for 400,000 low-income Hoosiers, and I'm pleased that this consumer-driven program will continue to operate here in Indiana."
Speaker of the Indiana House, Brian C. Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis, also commented on the expansion in a statement:
"This waiver extension of the Healthy Indiana Plan is tremendous news for the over 400,000 low-income Hoosiers served by our consumer-driven program. Indiana is a national model for how states can support better health outcomes while encouraging personal responsibility and reducing costs. With this waiver from the federal government, we will also have an opportunity to expand critical addiction treatment options and our efforts to help Hoosiers find employment."
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