Wednesday, May 03, 2006

$40,000 per year the new Poor?

g-uninsured 05-01-06
Copyright LJM 2006

GARY--There are more than 500,000 uninsured residents in Indiana and the state wants to do something about it.
Representatives from the Indiana Family and Social Service Administration held a
listening session Monday inside the Multi-purpose room at Ivy Tech Community College, as part of a statewide listening tour. Members from the social service, legislative and business community as well as citizens in Lake County were invited.

"We want to get a better feeling on how those in the state feel about
expanding Medicaid to the uninsured population," Brian Carnes, a FSSA media specialist said.

Of the state's uninsured, 70% are families with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level, which is $40,000 for a family of four. Indiana has the highest per capita rate of medical bankruptcies in the nation, amounting to more than 77,000 affected Hoosiers, according to information from the FSSA.
More importantly, between 1999 to 2004, Indiana had the nation’s second highest
percentage drop in workers who receive employer-sponsored health insurance.


Joseph A. Wszolek, a Highland councilman and owner of a real estate appraisal and consulting service, said he pays about $16,000 a year for health coverage at his business.

He's looking for a way to not become bankrupt. He speculated that if he were
Medicaid eligible, he wouldn't have to go broke paying for health insurance. He
said the Highland town council pays $1 million a year for health care out of a $12 million annual budget.

He is not alone. Each Indiana family with health insurance paid an additional
$953 in premiums to help cover the costs that providers incur serving the uninsured,
according to information from the FSSA. Additionally, projected health care costs will become more of a burden for the state.

However, those in the session seemed concerned about how the expansion could affect hospitals.
Beth Wrobel, Executive Director of Hilltop Community Health Center said by the
time an uninsured patient seeks treatment, the condition is sometimes worse, costing the state and the medical center more money.

Both John C. Diehl Chief Compliance Officer for the Methodist Hospitals, and St.
Catherine hospital Chief Financial Officer, Lou Molina, said if the Medicaid expansion will take funding away from what the state gives hospitals for indigent and Medicaid patients, it can severely affect their bottom line.

"I applaud the Governor for finding ways to pay for the uninsured
population, however...it may take money from safety net hospitals," he said.
Safety net hospitals have a high Medicaid and indigent patient population.
Hospitals can wait up to two years to receive Medicaid payments for patients. Meanwhile, there are indigent funds paid to hospitals by the state that may be used. The Medicaid expansion plan may get funding from a portion of those funds.

Many ideas were batted around. It helped FSSA Secretary, Mitch Roob get a better
feel of how the Medicaid expansion can best work for the entire state.
"This was tremendously helpful to get insight into the issues in Northwest
Indiana--which are different than they are in Indianapolis, or Madison, Indiana.
Our research shows that an increasing number of Hoosiers are without health
insurance for a variety of reasons," Roob said.
State Senator Earlene Rogers, said information gained at the listening sessions
may be incorporated into information that will later be presented to
legislators.
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