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Lawmakers send public health bill to the governor

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The author of a public health service bill sent to the governor on Thursday called the measure a paradigm shift in Indiana’s approach to treating illness.

The passage of Senate Bill 4 represents the culmination of more than two years of work for Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso. The measure defines a core set of public health services county health departments would have to provide in order to qualify for expanded state funding. Those services range from sanitary inspections of public buildings and tattoo parlors to tobacco control to preventing and reducing chronic illnesses such as obesity and diabetes.

“We’re never going to bend that (Medicaid spending) curve until we start treating people and preventing them from getting sick,” he said. “This is a preventive health bill.”

Lawmakers finalized the funding for SB 4 in the budget deal announced Wednesday afternoon. The budget makes available $75 million for Fiscal Year 2024 and $150 million for FY 2025 for health departments to use if they agree to provide the services. It would be up to county commissions whether or not to accept the extra funding.

“If you have a high incidence of something in your county but it’s not the same in the county next door, then the county with the high incident is going to address it specifically for their concerns,” Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, said.

Although no one spoke against the bill during the final passage, the legislation drew some criticism during public hearings over the issue of local control. Officials from some counties said they did not like the idea of the state mandating what services health departments should offer.