Evansville Courier & Press. May 19, 2014.
HIP 2.0 seeks to help low-income Hoosiers
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has decided to try Indiana state health care his way. To Pence's credit, it reminds us of former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who attempted multiple programs as he felt they should be done.
Last week, Pence unveiled a proposal that he said would cover 350,000 residents with health care coverage as an alternative to Medicaid.
Of course, it will require the approval of the federal government, which has been less than pleased with the Pence administration for refusing to embrace President Barack Obama's health care reform. Instead, Pence has been seeking federal approval to use Indiana's Healthy Indiana Plan, which provides health savings accounts to about 40,000 Hoosiers. According to The Associated Press, Indiana has wanted to use the Healthy Indiana program as Indiana's mechanism for reaching uninsured Hoosiers.
Indeed, Pence has objected to using an expansion of Medicaid to reach those uninsured citizens.
Pence has called Medicaid a broken "fiscal monstrosity."
What he wants to do is offer a two-tiered program of coverage, to be called HIP 2.0. The first would provide limited coverage at little or no cost below 100 percent of the federal poverty level. Another tier, HIP Plus would include dental and vision coverage, and other service at a cost of $3 to 25 per month, based on income. A third option would give workers who can't afford their employers' health care some help from the state with their premiums.
Pence said HIP would help low income residents be personally responsible for their health care.
What awaits now is a determination, especially by low-income Hoosiers, about whether this would work for them.
Journal & Courier, Lafayette. May 17, 2014.
Expecting educators to be armed guards
By putting guns into the hands of its administrators and school board members, the North White School Corp. made a stand that educators need to be front-line defenders against the prospects of someone coming to campus bent on killing.
Thought to be the first of its sort in Indiana, the policy would allow principals, the superintendent, board members and other administrators to carry a holstered handgun at school and at school events. The policy also calls for those who choose that option to go through annual training before patrolling the halls while armed.
Board members say they tried to stick to facts instead of emotion when finalizing the policy, which had been in the works for several months and goes into effect July 1.
The idea of adding guns into a school, even in the name of looking for another layer of security, certainly will stoke emotions. But the North White plan isn't a comforting one, no matter how you break it down.
The fact that schools have been pushed to this brink is depressing. There's no question that, given a chance, any of us would do anything to protect our children. And at North White, as in other districts, we're sure there are people willing and able to carry a gun to do just that.
But call us skeptical of any plan that puts educators in a position to be armed guards. Learning to carry a firearm responsibly and to use it properly isn't exactly the same as doing the police work in an active shooter situation. Giving parents the sense that that is the case isn't accurate or fair to educators expected to confront an intruder.
Do guns in the hands of principals prevent school violence or minimize the damage once situations arise? This is emotion speaking now, for sure, but here's hoping North White — or any other district — never has to find out.
The Republic, Columbus. May 17, 2014.
Cummins Inc.'s green initiative sets good standard
When Cummins Inc. embraced product emissions regulations in the early 2000s, it marked an important step in the company becoming the industry leader in environmental sustainability.
Now, the diesel engine maker is taking another important step that other manufacturers would be wise to follow to reduce their environmental footprints.
Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger unveiled the company's green initiative May 2, which pledges that everything the company does will lead to a cleaner, healthier and safer environment. That kind of statement definitely raises the bar for environmental sustainability, especially for a company already doing a good job in that regard.
But the company strongly believes that it should do better, and the results will benefit customers, the environment and the company.
The plan, which took two years to complete, outlines some bold goals. They are:
Reducing the use of energy by 25 percent and greenhouse gases by 27 percent, adjusted to sales, by 2015.
Reducing direct water use across the company by 33 percent, adjusted to hours worked, by 2020.
Achieving water neutrality by 2020 at 15 manufacturing sites in regions that don't have enough usable water. The company plans to reduce usage at its plants while investing in projects that increase supplies of fresh water to the environment.
Increasing the company's recycling rate from 89 to 95 percent of waste products, and achieving zero disposal status at 30 sites by 2020.
That's a lot to accomplish in six years or less. However, Cummins has achieved success with environmental sustainability that suggests these goals can be met — something other companies should note.
The use of Six Sigma, a business problem-solving tool, has saved 90 million gallons of fuel, about 1 million tons of carbon dioxide has been avoided, and more than $3 billion has been saved by the company since 2005.
Cummins' collaboration with Peterbilt on the SuperTruck has achieved a 75 percent improvement in fuel economy compared with a typical truck on the road.
Also, Cummins has helped communities in India conserve water on farms and access water for homes.
Companies should be good stewards of the environment, making sure they cause as little harm as possible in their pursuit of financial success.
Cummins, a Fortune 500 company, is an example that doing so is not only important but also possible.
Tribune-Star, Terre Haute. May 17, 2014.
Governor, staff deserve credit for negotiating to expand health care
The bottom line matters most with a long-overdue health-care proposal announced Thursday by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
His staff labels it "HIP 2.0," a significant enhancement of the state's existing Healthy Indiana Plan. Pence describes it as "consumer-driven health care." President Obama's administration called the governor's idea a "Medicaid coverage expansion," as prescribed in the Affordable Care Act. The president's critics derisively brand the ACA "Obamacare." A critic of Pence's plan, writing for Forbes, warns that HIP 2.0 will become "a Medicaid expansion with some free-market window dressing."
The name worn by the Indiana plan — be it HIP 2.0, Healthy Indiana Part Deux, or Pencecare — is of little consequence. The results are what matters. If the federal government views Pence's Healthy Indiana Plan expansion as an acceptable version of Medicaid expansion, then 350,000 currently uninsured, low-income, non-disabled Hoosiers ages 19 to 64 will become eligible for health-care coverage.
That expansion is a big deal for Indiana. The state persistently ranks near the bottom nationally in the health of its residents, with high rates of smoking, heart disease, obesity and cancer. That dismal situation weakens the Hoosier workforce and diminishes economic productivity. The lack of attention to health — including regular, preventative care — costs Indiana greatly right now. Pence has taken a big step toward improving that bleak predicament.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia had already taken that step through expanding Medicaid as outlined in the Affordable Care Act. A Supreme Court ruling made that expansion optional. Thus, nearly two dozen states — most led by Republican governors who oppose the president and his health-care plan — have refused to implement the Medicaid expansion, which extends coverage to people with household incomes at 138 percent of the federal poverty level (or about $33,000 for a family of four). It is a legion of Americans who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and don't qualify for a subsidy through the ACA.
Three states — Arkansas, Michigan and Iowa — crafted their own state-specific plans, approved by the federal government. Three others are pursuing their own options, too. The HIP 2.0 proposal by Indiana is similar, yet different because of the component Pence terms "consumer-driven." Recipients with incomes within the "coverage gap" — those with earnings at 100 to 138 percent of the poverty rate — would be asked to contribute from $3 to $25 monthly to their health savings (or POWER) accounts. It also includes high deductibles, which patients could pay with savings account funds.
The idea will go to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which could approve it or ask for revisions. The state will take public comments for a month and conduct two public hearings in Indianapolis.
In his announcement, Pence repeatedly affirmed his long, unwavering distaste for the president's health-care overhaul, invoked former President Ronald Reagan's memory and labeled Medicaid "a fiscal monstrosity." Given his consideration of a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Pence's conservative spin on the proposal is unsurprising and a political necessity. Still, his expansion plan is occurring because of the ACA and would be fueled by Indiana's access to Medicaid expansion funds, regardless of the adjectives or names used to identify it.
"It's just how one wants to pitch it," Kosali Simon, professor of health economics at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Tribune-Star on Friday.
The bottom line is, the governor and his staff deserve credit for working with the Obama administration's Health and Human Services team and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reach this point. Let's call it an innovative compromise.