Hoosiers protest work requirement for health insurance

Activists with Hoosier Action protest work requirements for HIP members, July 1, 2019, in Indianapolis. (TheStatehouseFile.com Photo/Lacey Watt)
Abrahm Hurt

INDIANAPOLIS (Statehouse File) —Hoosiers rallied Monday at the Statehouse to protest changes to Indiana’s Medicaid requirements that they say will create more obstacles to health care, cost people their health insurance and profit private companies.

The Gateway to Work program requires Healthy Indiana Plan members to report 20 hours of work, volunteer, school and other activities every month effective Monday. The reporting can be done by phone, computer or in person.

The requirement gradually increases until next July 1, 2020 when HIP members will have to report 20 hours every week.

Exceptions are granted for HIP members if you are:

  • the caregiver of a dependent child under 7 years old;
  • the caregiver of a disabled dependent;
  • homeless;
  • institutionalized;
  • the Kinship caregiver of an abused or neglected child;
  • medically frail;
  • pregnant;
  • recently incarcerated;
  • a student (half or full time);
  • age 60 years or older;
  • a TANF or SNAP recipient;
  • have a certified illness or incapacity; or
  • have a substance use disorder.

Other exemptions can be made after a review.

More than 50 people met Monday to protest the new requirements on Monument Circle and at 101 W. Ohio St., which is the home of MAXIMUS, the state’s Medicaid enrollment broker. The protest was organized by Hoosier Action, a community organization based in southern Indiana that advocates for health care as well as clean air and water.

Lisa Miles, senior vice president of investor relations and corporate communications at MAXIMUS, said her company does not determine eligibility for the program. She said it helps individuals choose which health plan is best suited for their specific needs but only after they are determined eligible for the program.

HIP is a health care program for Medicaid-eligible or low-income individuals, which was established by then-Gov. Mike Pence. The program replaced traditional Medicaid for all non-disabled adults in the state.

Jane Phillips, a representative for Communications Workers of America, said companies like MAXIMUS will receive profits from the barriers created by the reporting requirements.

“Hoosiers deserve better than to have essential programs that families rely on outsourced to profit-driven companies,” she said. “As Hoosiers, we need to stand together and work to stop companies to think of profits before people.”

Ed O’Brien, who was representing Owen County for Hoosier Action, said many of the needy families and friends in his county do not have access to a computer, the internet, minutes on their phone or transportation to report their hours.

Donna Niednagel, who was representing Brown County, said only one third of her county’s residents have access to the internet, and there are only seasonal part-time jobs.

According to Hoosier Action, an estimated 78,000 Hoosiers enrolled in HIP will be required to submit monthly reports by calling their health insurance providers or online through the Family and Social Services Administration’s Benefits Portal.

James Gavin, director of FSSA communications and media, said a handful of FSSA employees work with the health plans to ensure the successful implementation of the Healthy Indiana Plan.

He also said Gateway to Work will not introduce any additional layers of bureaucracy or require new private contracts to manage the program. Instead, members will rely on the support of their managed care health plans.

Eva Bell
Eva Bell of Unionville speaks at a protest against new work requirements for HIP members, July 1, 2019, in Indianapolis. (TheStatehouseFile.com Photo/Lacey Watt)

“The health plans - Anthem, CareSource, MDwise and Managed Health Services - are already adept at helping their members navigate educational and employment needs, along with things like housing, food and transportation,” Gavin said.

Eva Bell, a Unionville resident and a mother of three, said she already works two jobs, but her employers cannot guarantee her 20 hours of work a week.

“Despite working two jobs, I can get kicked off of my healthcare, and what happens if I get sick and I don’t have health insurance?” she said. “I could lose my job, and I won’t be able to care for my children.”

After the press conference, the coalition of interest groups delivered 3,000 petition postcards to the office of Gov. Eric Holcomb. His office referred questions to FSSA.

“I hope the governor will stop work requirements and do the right thing,” Bell said.

Brandon Barger contributed to this report, which was reproduced from TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College.