From The Associated Press
Business Journal of Indianapolis. January 20, 2023.
Editorial: Legislative efforts to control healthcare costs are a good start
We are pleased that this month the Indiana General Assembly opened its 2023 session by making good on its promise to explore ways to reduce Indiana’s healthcare costs.
From the start, Republican leaders in the Indiana House and Senate proposed several cost-cutting measures that they described as “out of control.” They base their assessment largely on a study by Los Angeles-based Rand Corp. from 2020, showing that the expenses Indiana hospitals charge to cover their overheads and keep their doors open are the fifth highest in the country.
Controlling these costs is key to keeping Indiana an attractive place to work. And hospitals, insurance companies, and drug companies across the state should work in good faith to help lawmakers implement it.
We are particularly pleased that lawmakers are pursuing legislation to control drug prices by pressuring administrators of pharmacy benefits. These powerful middlemen negotiate drug prices between pharmacies, drug manufacturers, and health insurance companies, but are often not very forthcoming about how much salary they keep for themselves.
The editors of the IBJ demanded stricter controls of these price setters in July. The legislature’s solution is contained in Senate Bill 8. It would require the intermediaries to pass on any rebates they receive from the sellers to the patients or to the plan members.
Failure to do so may result in a fine of up to $10,000 per violation. One problem is that the requirements would have to be enforced by the Indiana Department of Insurance, an agency that many already see as overburdened.
We’re also pleased that lawmakers are considering several other approaches to controlling costs. We reserve judgment on these actions, primarily because we do not claim to be experts on the highly complex issue of healthcare reform, but also because we want to learn more as the legislature debates each proposal.
These measures include:
— Senate Bill 7, which aims to encourage competition in healthcare by prohibiting a physician from receiving compensation for referring a patient to a healthcare facility or to another physician.
— Senate Bill 6, which aims to increase transparency about where a medical procedure is performed for billing purposes. Now medical providers can charge more for a procedure if it is performed in a hospital’s own clinic rather than an independent one.
– House Bill 1004 would fine hospitals that charge more than 260% of what Medicare reimburses for services.
In the case of the final bill, the Department of Insurance would again be asked to process price disclosure forms submitted by hospitals and determine which should be fined.
We welcome a full debate on all these measures. And in the end, we hope that the Legislature will ensure that the Department of Insurance is adequately funded and staffed to enforce whatever approaches are eventually approved.
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. January 20, 2023.
Editorial: It’s time to destigmatize HIV in Indiana
While we can’t turn back time, a bill introduced in the General Assembly is reason for Hoosiers to welcome a little science-based progressiveness.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, would eliminate the fear-based legal logic that dates back 30 years when panic overtook reason. The bill would remove penalties for battery and malicious mischief related to HIV. It would also eliminate certain offenses related to donating, selling or transferring blood containing HIV.
However, the law as it stands rightly provides that if a person with a communicable disease knowingly fails to inform a vulnerable person in order to harm the health of another person, it is a Level 6 penalty.
The bill is currently before the House Judiciary and Criminal Code Committee. It’s about time this went through both houses and was signed by Governor Eric Holcomb.
“I think by having that perception and growing up fearing that we were going to die, it dominated[my]generation,” McNamara said last fall. “The science has changed, and that’s why we’re going to take (House Bill 1198) and focus on … really trying to reverse the stigma attached to it.”
Unfortunately, our treatment of people infected with human immunodeficiency virus has not kept pace with medical breakthroughs. In the 1990s, a diagnosis was a prelude to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, and almost certain death.
Last February, Jeff Markley, executive director of the Positive Resource Connection, formerly of the local AIDS Task Force, shed light on the new reality in a five-question feature.
“One of our fastest growing programs is our PrEP program. PrEP is a medication that, when taken as directed, prevents HIV-negative people from becoming HIV-positive, regardless of the activities they engage in,” Markley told The Journal Gazette.
“In the 1980s and 1990s, HIV-positive individuals were likely taking multiple medications, multiple times a day — some every four hours — with significant and often debilitating side effects. Today, most customers are able to take just one pill a day with little to no side effects.”
Decriminalization of HIV is necessary and overdue. Destigmatizing HIV, however, can only come through education and compassion from all of us. And it has to come soon because fear combined with a lack of knowledge keeps people from getting tested and treated.
As we previously mentioned, approximately 17% of Hoosiers with HIV are unaware of their status. Additionally, black women are disproportionately affected by the disease. Black women make up 10% of the female population but account for 53% of newly reported HIV cases.
We commend the efforts of politicians to stimulate discussion about HIV. Now we hope that the legislature will show their political will and financial strength to destigmatize HIV. Funding for public health and education is a good place to start.
Terre Haute Tribune Star. January 19, 2023.
Editorial: An unwelcome plan to politicize school boards
The twist was subtle but significant, in a Republican announcement of proposed legislation to end Indiana’s long history of bipartisan school board elections.
A press release from Indiana House Republicans said: “Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Brazil) authored legislation that would increase transparency in Hoosier school board elections by allowing candidates to declare a party affiliation .”
So it would apparently “allow” people who want to serve on their local school board – one of the most thankless public service jobs anyway – to declare a political party affiliation. Finally, around 2023, they could fully enter the wonderful world of party politics, where each side demonizes the other, the acceptance of opposing party ideas is forbidden by the party bosses, and no proposal moves forward in the chain without approval of the party command.
“Allow” sounds optional.
That’s not really how the bill reads. House Bill 1074 “provides that for office in school boards, each candidate’s affiliation with a political party or status as an independent candidate must be stated on a nomination form and on the ballot.”
The proposed law would, in effect, force people who wish to serve on their local school boards to choose to wear the party label of Republican, Democrat, or Liberal unless they choose not to vote and run as a party independent. The dominance of Hoosier school board members who are not overtly political would have to become overtly political or make it on their own as an independent.
And how often do independent candidates — who have no party endorsements or support — win partisan elections in Indiana? Rarely.
Instead, the plan to immerse local schools in party politics aims to give the ruling political party even more control over Hoosiers’ lives. This scheme is presented under the shiny, expedient guise of “Empowerment Parents,” but it really aims to force school board members to run the state and federal party leadership’s outrage issue of the month in order to win elections. As a result, children receive a weakened education.
Party officials tested candidates even after declaring a party. Under the proposed law, candidates in the last two primary elections must have voted for their declared party’s ballot. If this is not the case, the district party leader must confirm the candidate’s declaration. Again, it’s about control.
The party that controls the local school board can then also influence hiring decisions. A Republican-dominated board of directors could choose not to approve contracts for teachers, coaches, principals, consultants and staff they believe are Democrats, and vice versa. The divisive us-versus-them mess stagnating Congress would unfold in the community school, sucking up the oxygen and energy that should be devoted to efficient, thoughtful day-to-day operations.
The recent election in Vigo County itself refutes the false claim that suffixing an ‘R’, ‘D’ or ‘L’ to a school board candidate’s name informs voters better than the impartial system. Voters in November’s general election scrutinized the 14 nonpartisan candidates on the ballot to get their take on last year’s defeated referendum on school construction and other issues. The candidate forums were also well attended. Party labels would not have added anything helpful, only blurring out the relevant information.
These are the reasons only four states require candidates to wear party labels in school board elections. Indiana should not join this list.