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Tuesday, 25 February 2014 00:00

Republicans seek political cover to accept Medicaid expansion money

Written by  Reid Wilson | The Washington Post
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n the bitterly partisan debate over the Affordable Care Act, few House members criticized the proposed legislation as harshly or as often as then-Rep. Mike Pence. But now, nearly four years after the measure passed on a party-line vote, Pence, now Indiana’s governor, is asking the federal government for ACA money to expand a program that provides coverage to low-income Hoosiers. But he wants to do it outside the confines of the health-care law.

Pence is among a small but growing number of GOP governors and lawmakers looking for alternatives to expanding Medicaid. They don’t want to be seen embracing a law that is almost universally loathed in their party, but the hundreds of millions of dollars available to their states through the law’s provisions are too enticing to pass up.

“Obamacare was a mistake. It was, to borrow a phrase, a bad idea poorly executed,” Pence said in an interview. “But where I work, it’s about solutions. People are looking for results.”

On Friday, Pence met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to ask for a waiver for the Healthy Indiana Plan, which helps about 45,000 low-income residents with personal health funds linked to insurance plans with high deductibles. Pence wants to use the federal money earmarked for Indiana’s Medicaid expansion to grow that program instead.

“I’ve made it very clear that I have no interest in expanding traditional Medicaid in Indiana,” he said. “I think Medicaid is a deeply flawed system. I think it’s broke, and broken, and it ill serves the people that are covered. We’re currently in negotiations with the administration about using the resources that are available for Medicaid expansion to expand the Healthy Indiana Plan.”

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