J.K. Wall has a good article for the IBJ (h/t Indiana Law Blog entitled Ruling Could Leave 290k Hoosiers Uncovered. It’s a good article that you should read, but I disagree with the title. It’s not the ruling that would leave Hoosiers uncovered. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves; or rather, it would be in our lawmakers.
After last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling gave Indiana the option not to expand its Medicaid program and some state legislators promised to do exactly that, Indiana hospitals started to worry.
That’s because a decision by Indiana to leave its Medicaid program unchanged could leave as many as 290,000 Hoosier adults, who would have been newly eligible for Medicaid coverage, with no good options.
Out of mostly political pique, lawmakers could decide to take it out on those 300k Hoosiers who don’t qualify for Medicaid as currently structured but who would qualify for the Medicaid expansion because their income is 133% of the poverty level or less (about $32,000 for a family of four). I believe the rest of the health care reform law focuses on solutions for people with incomes above that level with the underlying assumption being that those earning below that level would have been covered by the Medicaid expansion. This gap includes pretty much all of the non-disabled, childless poor as well as adults with children if the family income is between about $6,000 and that $32,000 mark. In particular, it is:
[I]t is parents with incomes below 100 percent of the poverty limit and above 24 percent of the limit—as well as all childless adults below the poverty limit—that would be left out if Indiana did not expand its Medicaid program.
The reason federal lawmakers made the assumption that states would expand is because, as written, the law was pretty draconian in its response to states that did not expand — it defunded even current federal Medicaid contributions. The Supreme Court deemed that too coercive and struck the defunding provision, giving states much more freedom to decline expansion. There may be dispassionate policy arguments against expansion; but we are unlikely to get a dispassionate approach to this issue from lawmakers. Health care policy has been heavily politicized, and declining or agreeing to participate in the Medicaid expansion will be as much a tribal marker as anything else. If you’re not of Obama’s tribe, you’ll vote against expansion. If you are of Obama’s tribe, you’ll vote for it. Policy reasons will be given; but it’s difficult to believe at this juncture that those ostensible reasons will be much more than pretextual.
Apparently this would represent a serious blow to hospitals who would get Medicaid reimbursements of about $0.60 on the dollar for this group of people (leaving aside for a moment the huge issue about setting the proper baseline for medical costs) instead of the approximately $0.10 on the dollar they currently are able to realize on bad debt associated with this population. A study commissioned by Gov. Daniels (not necessarily a neutral actor) had Indiana’s share of expanded coverage at about $160 million per year between 2014 – 2020. (By my back of the napkin math, this represents about $533 per covered individual or about $23 per Hoosier per year; however you want to cut it.)