Indiana legislative leaders ponder health costs

Associated Press Modified: November 19, 2012 at 5:30 pm •  Published: November 19, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's top lawmakers said Monday they're not sure what to expect from the federal health care law other than greater costs at a time the state's budget is already stretched thin.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long said the state no doubt would have to absorb some hidden expenses, even if the federal government sets up Indiana's online exchange allowing consumers and businesses to shop for insurance. That coupled with a potential Medicaid expansion could make the law a long-term burden on Indiana taxpayers, he said.

"It's absolutely a freight train coming down the tracks that's going to be shoved off on the states. And a lot of the cost has to do with the situation in Washington," he said, adding that Washington's budget woes make it more likely states will bear the burden of the sweeping law.

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the General Assembly spoke Monday at a forum hosted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Gov.-elect Mike Pence opposes the state running its own insurance exchange. The federal government would build one for the state if he declines a partnership with the federal government by February.

But even though his rhetoric against President Barack Obama's signature legislation remains sharp, Pence may not be ruling out a state-run exchange long-term. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma says Pence has told him the state could retake control of the exchange after a year if it works well.

The Legislature will have a full plate when it begins work in earnest starting January. Besides questions about health care, lawmakers must craft the next biennial budget, address educations and jobs proposals and consider whether to write Indiana's gay marriage ban into the state constitution.

Lawmakers enter the 2013 session with roughly $2 billion in cash reserves and a proposal from Pence to use at least part of that money to cut the personal income tax by 10 percent. But Long cautioned that gambling income from the state's riverboat casinos and slots operations has been declining, and Bosma said it would be hard to commit to very much new spending or tax cuts because "the fiscal fog is thick."

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