By Rep. Todd Rokita
This week, my U.S. House Budget Committee colleagues and I introduced a federal budget resolution for fiscal year 2014. Our budget is a responsible plan that stops spending money and balances in 10 years -- largely through making key reforms to drivers of our debt like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
While most of the debate over the budget focuses on federal issues and programs, there is one important reform that I have worked to include in the budget which is of particular importance to Indiana.
Since taking office in January, Gov. Pence's administration has been seeking permission from the federal government to expand our successful Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) to provide health care to more needy Hoosiers. However, because of federal law, in particular ObamaCare, Indiana must get explicit permission from the Obama administration before it can provide this crucial lifeline to Hoosiers. To date, the Obama administration has not provided this permission.
The House budget would provide an innovative solution to this standoff between Indiana and the federal government. Inside the House budget is a provision which reforms Medicaid by providing states with total flexibility to run their individual Medicaid plans as they see fit. In Indiana this would mean that our state could immediately expand HIP and continue to tailor it to fit the needs of Hoosiers.
Medicaid's results over the past several decades have made it clear that the Washington-knows-best system of today does not work. All across America, families on Medicaid struggle to even find a doctor who will see them. And when they do find a doctor, they often receive lesser care from the overtaxed doctors who are swamped with Medicaid patients. For example, a 2010 study suggested that surgical patients on Medicaid were 13 percent more likely to die than those without health insurance at all.
At the same time, doctors who do treat Medicaid patients are chronically underpaid compared with their colleagues, who make nearly 60 percent more money treating an American on private health insurance than they do treating an American on Medicaid.
What do we get for a national program that does not cover those in need, and drives the doctors who try out of the field? We get deficits as far as the eye can see. Medicaid, with its burdensome federal mandates and chronically low federal reimbursement rates for doctors, is driving states to the brink of bankruptcy.
That is why Indiana, under Gov. Daniels and now under Gov. Pence, created and now seeks to expand HIP. Unfortunately the Obama administration continues to insist on sticking with Medicaid. In fact, under Obamacare, the number of Americans on Medicaid will dramatically increase.
Instead of shoving millions more Americans into a failing program, like Obamacare does, we should look at the reforms that are working on the ground. Indiana and Rhode Island are great examples. Through HIP, we have demonstrated how health benefits can be extended to low-income Americans without increasing costs. Similarly, Rhode Island accepted spending caps on its Medicaid program for five years and transitioned to a managed care system, saving the state millions of dollars.
It's time to clear out the red tape and bureaucracy in Washington that is preventing our state from achieving the full reform potential of HIP. It's time to ensure that other states have the same flexibility to offer their own unique solutions to the uninsured. And it's time to reform the broken Medicaid system that we know -- which is piling trillions of dollar of debt on future generations -- and allow innovative, efficient solutions to drive down costs and improve the quality of care for Hoosiers and for all Americans.
Before winning his congressional seat as a Republican in 2010, Rokita served two terms as Indiana's secretary of state.