In the past three months, close to 3,000 impoverished people in Johnson County have been able to sign up for health insurance.
They have been able to see their primary care doctors without having to pay any money at all, had access to preventive care such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and taken advantage of dental and vision coverage.
State officials are encouraged by the response to the expansion of the Healthy Indiana Plan. The next step is signing up the about 1,500 county residents who qualify for the program but still haven’t signed up.
Health care officials are preparing for a statewide informational blitz aimed at doctors, nurses, social service agencies and individuals to ensure that everyone possible takes advantage of the new coverage.
“The problem is the system is so complicated and so expensive that it frightens them,” said Dr. John Wernert, secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration. “It’s important that these uninsured people realize they need to come out of the shadows, and the doctors and hospitals are excited about caring for them.”
Wernert was in Greenwood on Wednesday for the department of health’s Public Health Nurse Conference at Valle Vista Golf Club and Conference Center. His focus was signing people up for the Healthy Indiana Plan.
Officials anticipated enrolling 350,000 the first year, but already have signed up 320,000 in about three months, Wernert said.
According to Census numbers, Johnson County had more than 4,500 uninsured residents who were eligible for the plan in February. As of the end of March, 2,972 had enrolled.
State officials are leaving the enrollment period open indefinitely, meaning that people have all of this year and possibly beyond to sign up, Wernert said.
“We want everyone possible to get online,” he said.
The Healthy Indiana Plan is an affordable insurance program for low-income residents. People ages 19 to 64 whose incomes are 138 percent or less of the federal poverty level qualify.
For example, any individual making $16,436 or less per year would meet the requirements. A family of four whose household income was $33,865 or less could sign up.
People who meet the poverty requirements are provided with a health savings account in which they are asked to contribute $1 to $27 per month, depending on poverty level.
“You’re putting individuals in a position where they’re taking ownership and responsibility for their health care,” Wernert said. “If you’re having to do those things, even if it’s a small amount of money, you still have to say you’re investing in your health care.”
The state also provides funding to help them pay for medical care deductibles and costs.
When an individual signs up for the plan and makes their first monthly contribution to their health savings account, the account is already preloaded with $2,500.
“It puts people in a real position of ownership of their health care. They want to know what things cost at the point of care, and they’ll have the money available immediately for those needs,” Wernert said.
People can sign up for varying levels of coverage.
The most complete is the HIP Plus. For people who agree to contribute some of their own money to the account they get medical, psychiatric, behavior health, dental and vision coverage.
Below that is HIP Basic, which provides for people at the poverty level who do not make contributions to their health savings account. The coverage is essentially the same as Medicaid, but each medical visit or transaction can cost between $4 and $8, Wernert said.
Indiana has offered a version of the Healthy Indiana Plan since 2008. The problem with earlier versions was that the coverage was limited, Wernert said. At most, it could admit 55,000 uninsured people into the program.
The waiting list to get into the program ballooned to 30,000 people or more.
The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, provided funding that states could use to expand their Medicaid programs for uninsured residents in poverty.
But Indiana lawmakers and Gov. Mike Pence wanted to instead tweak their existing system, which they felt was better poised to stay self-funded and provided more to Indiana residents.
“When the Obamacare expansion came around, the story was, just take the federal dollars and expand your Medicaid program. We had something better,” Wernert said. “This was our solution to expanding it.”
That expanded program became known as Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0. It was unveiled to the public in February.
The expansion is being paid for through the existing cigarette tax, as well as with the hospital assessment fee, an extra fee that hospitals pay to align with federal reimbursements for Medicare. The state already has set aside $50 million to pay for it, Wernert said.
“Hoosiers aren’t paying more for this; there are no increased taxes, there are no increased assessments or fees,” he said.
State officials are in the initial stages of informing the public about the Healthy Indiana Plan.
Starting in June, ad campaigns will start with billboards, TV commercials and other advertisements to let people know about the plan.
The FSSA website has tools to help people calculate their eligibility, presentation videos, brochures and links to pharmacies and managed care entities, Wernert said.
Navigators at individual hospitals, including Franciscan St. Francis Health and Johnson Memorial Health, have been trained to help people figure out the plan and what they’re covered for.
Presentations to educate health care providers about the expansion, such as the conference on Wednesday, already have started.
“The providers are key. They’re the ones who meet individually with the patients, and need to explain it,” Wernert said. “If the doctor doesn’t understand what the program is, they can’t explain it to the patient.”
Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0
What: An affordable health insurance program for uninsured adult Indiana residents.
How does it work? Residents whose income meets or is lower than the federal poverty levels are provided with a health savings account, called a POWER account.
Enrollees are initially given $2,500 in that account to pay for doctor visits, medical procedures, prescriptions and other health care costs. They are asked to make a monthly contribution to the account on their own — about 2 percent of their income.
How can you find out if you’re eligible?
The Family and Social Services Administration has maintained a calculator tool at in.gov/fssa/hip, which takes your monthly or annual income, number of family members, and calculates whether you can sign up and how much your monthly contributions would be.
How can I sign up?
Applications are available online at in.gov/fssa/hip, or by visiting the Johnson County Division of Family Resources office at 1788 E. Jefferson St., Franklin.
For more information, call (877) 438-4479.
4,500 — Approximate number of uninsured Johnson County residents eligible for the Healthy Indiana Plan as of February.
2,972 — Number of Johnson County residents who have signed up for the new Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0.
850,000 — Estimated number of uninsured Indiana residents who would be eligible for the plan.
320,000 — Indiana residents who have enrolled in HIP 2.0 so far.
350,000 — Number of residents state officials had hoped to sign up by the end of 2015.
— Information from Dr. John Wernert, secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration.