Federal officials discuss health care, negotiations with governor

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Legislative leaders met with Governor Mike Pence this week to discuss the latest on the negotiations between the state and the federal government over Pence's proposal to expand the 'Healthy Indiana Plan.'

An additional 350,000 Hoosiers could have access to health care- if the state and the federal government can reach a deal. The state of Indiana still needs permission from the federal government before the plan can go forward, and Thursday CBS4 spoke with the cabinet member in charge of those talks, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

“We are continuing to have constructive conversations with the governor and have started those conversations and will continue to have those,” said Burwell.

The governor first unveiled the proposal last summer, saying negotiations with the feds were underway. Several months later, those talks are still ongoing, and some lawmakers want to know what’s taking so long.

“I am frustrated at the length of time it’s taken because many Hoosiers have gone without health insurance that they otherwise would have been able to purchase,” said House minority leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City.

“It has been a while,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. “The administration seems hopeful there will be a resolution in the near future.”

Along the way, the governor’s been to Washington to negotiate, and even spoke briefly with the President when he came to Indiana in October.

But in last week’s State of the State address, Pence made clear there were some aspects of the plan he wasn’t willing to budge on.

“As our discussions go forward, know this: I will continue to stand firm for the right to expand access to coverage the Indiana way,” said Pence in last week’s speech.

“Am I frustrated about the pace? Yes I am,” said Pelath. “But am I hopeful that the Obama administration and Pence administration can pragmatically allow more people to get health insurance? Yes.”

In the meantime Burwell is hoping people will sign up for the federal exchange before next month’s deadline.

“There are a number of different options,” Burwell said. “What we’ve seen is more insurers coming into the marketplace and that means more competitions and more plans.”

Burwell encouraged Hoosiers to check on their status or sign up for coverage at healthcare.gov – the federal government’s new web site for federal coverage.

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