Signups underway for expanded Healthy Indiana Plan

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The conversion of tens of thousands of people to Indiana's expanded health care program for low-income residents has gone well during its first week, the top state official overseeing the program said Tuesday

The Family and Social Service Administration has also started accepting new applications for the expanded Healthy Indiana Plan and is preparing an advertising campaign to encourage signups, agency Secretary John Wernert said.

Federal officials last week approved the state-run plan submitted in July from Republican Gov. Mike Pence dubbed HIP 2.0. It uses Medicaid funding to possibly extend coverage to an estimated 350,000 uninsured residents.

"The rollout has been very smooth, mainly because we've been up and ready for several months now," Wernert told the House Ways and Means Committee during an agency budget hearing.

Some 180,000 people who were already part of the previous HIP or Hoosier Healthwise programs have been converted to the new plan and applications are being processed from 6,000 people who were on the HIP waiting list, he said.

HIP 2.0 includes health savings accounts, which involves state contributions based on income levels, and will cover those with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or the equivalent of a family of four that has an annual income of about $33,000.

The basic level for those below 100 percent of the federal poverty level does not require payments from enrollees. But they are required to make co-pays for all services. A second tier of improved coverage is available if enrollees pay a monthly fee ranging from $1 to $25 into a health savings account.

Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said he welcomed the expansion of health care coverage under the state program, but cautioned that not all would likely go perfectly with it.

"If there are problems, let's not use that as a cause to instantly condemn the entire system," Pelath said. "Let's try to fix it."

Wernert said an awareness campaign with television commercials was planned to start next month to encourage HIP 2.0 signups. The program is also being promoted through doctors and hospitals, which can have staff members help patients prepare applications.

"We're already getting lots of calls from providers who weren't participating in our Medicaid program who are now saying, 'Can I get in?'" Wernert said.

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