Gov. Holcomb braces for big decisions under looming health care changes

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INDIANAPOLIS – Vice President Mike Pence returned to Capitol Hill Tuesday, huddling behind closed doors with lawmakers to push forward the GOP's new health care plan.

While uncertainty remains, and members of the U.S. Senate are promising sweeping changes to what House Republicans passed, states like Indiana are quickly preparing behind-the-scenes for numerous 'what if' scenarios.

“I will bet on Indiana to deliver the best health care possible,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in an interview with CBS4, his first since the House GOP plan passed the chamber.

A central part of the plan would allow states to opt out of key mandates in the Affordable Care Act. The waiver could allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for Hooisers with pre-existing conditions.

“My number one goal is to be looking after people who do and don’t have coverage at this time,” Holcomb said. “And we’ll play a part in that solution.”

Holcomb wouldn’t go as far as to specify either way whether Indiana would consider opting out.

“My number one priority is to look after the well-being of our citizens, I have said from the outset,” he said. “I am seeking state flexibility. I think the states can better care for their citizens than a one-sized-fits-all federal approach. I’m encouraged that first step has been taken, but I’m aware this is a longer process than just one vote.”

The current plan would also take away millions of dollars in federal money that is currently helping Indiana fund an expansion of Medicaid under the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0.

Holcomb said that would need to result in new reforms at the state level.

“This bill that came out of the House is really a green flag, not a checkered flag,” Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) said. “Hoosiers know this is the start of the process, not the end of it.”

States, though, are quietly preparing for potential provisions in a health care bill that narrowly passed the House.

“Democrats are completely false,” Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) said. “They are scaring people, and they should be ashamed of themselves. Under our plan, pre-existing conditions are covered. It’s one of the things we liked about Obamacare.”

Senate Democrats, though, promise a fierce battle in the Senate.

“The bill the House sent over is pretty much dead on arrival,” Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) said. “Because what it did is for people with pre-existing conditions, it resulted in either them not getting coverage or coverage at a dramatically, dramatically higher price.”

Laura Albright, a CBS4 political analysts and political science professor at the University of Indianapolis, notes the heightened political rhetoric.

“Those seem to be very contradictory statements at their core,” she said. “I think there is a question about how insurance would handle pre-existing conditions, and both parties are going to play it to their own advantage. But when you look at the legislation itself, it’s handling it differently than the Affordable Care Act did.”

Albright, well aware of the promises from both Republicans and Democrats, said voters have yet to be fully concerned since a final version of legislation is still likely months away.

“It’s absolutely speculation,” she said. “And it’s politically bias speculation so no one could say for sure.”

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