Health Care Takes Federal Spotlight

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there have been calls from the Republican Party to repeal the federal health care law. There were many votes in the House to try to accomplish that goal, but efforts stalled after that. The results of the November election, however, have put the issue on the fast track.

This week, the American Health Care Act was introduced in the House of Representatives; it’s a House Republican leadership-led plan that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and is said to contain patient-centered reforms that drive down costs and expand access to care. More information can be found online.

The legislation has received mixed reactions from both sides of the aisle in the Indiana delegation. And overall, more mixed reaction – especially more from Republicans – has been prevalent in the Senate.

Representatives Larry Bucshon (IN-08) and Susan Brooks (IN-05) participated in the 27-hour hearing by the Energy and Commerce Committee on the new legislation. This markup phase lasted from Wednesday morning to Thursday afternoon before it was finally approved for advancement 31-23. During and since that marathon, Bucshon and Brooks have taken to social media to offer their support for the American Health Care Act. Here
are two updates they provided:

Brooks subsequently also stated: “The goals of the American Health Care Act are to provide states with more flexibility, lower health care costs for families and offer people more options when it comes to their health care decisions. Our plan protects coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, allows kids to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26, continues to protect seniors from the high costs of prescription drugs caused by the Medicare Part D donut hole and bans lifetime caps to ensure that people will never have a limit imposed on their care.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Banks (IN-03) offered: “While the replacement plan contains positive reforms like a permanent repeal of the medical device tax and repeal of the individual mandate, I have concerns about several aspects of the bill. These include the overall cost of the plan, the length of time it takes to repeal many Obamacare taxes, the possible creation of a new entitlement program and whether essential pro-life protections will be maintained. I will carefully study this legislation and evaluate how these concerns are addressed as this bill moves through the legislative process.”

Banks further stated that he supported two amendments to the replacement bill supported by the Republican Study Committee (of which he is a member) that he thinks would improve the underlying bill: one would freeze new enrollment in Medicaid expansion at the end of this year; the other would institute work requirements for able-bodied, childless adults on Medicaid.

On the Senate side, Indiana Republican Todd Young took to Twitter to give his quick thoughts on the new proposal: “Americans will have weeks to see what’s in the GOP health care plan before the Senate votes on it. (We) will not repeat mistakes of 2009. Feedback from both D’s & R’s alike will be welcome. We need input from all sides to fix the Obamacare mess.”

In an interview with WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, his counterpart – Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelley – implored Congress to not rush to pass a new law, but instead to work on a bipartisan effort to install some commonsense measures in the existing health care law that would be more beneficial to Hoosiers. Watch the full video interview.

Indiana Historical Society Tells Forgotten Tale of Italian POWS at Camp Atterbury

We highlighted the Indiana Historical Society’s Eli Lilly-themed You Are There exhibit in the January/February BizVoice. I’d just like to reiterate how intriguing and impactful these experiences are, and make you aware of IHS’s upcoming offering about Italian POWs at Atterbury in 1943, which opened March 4.

An IHS release provides the background:

In one of the Indiana Historical Society’s (IHS’s) most moving You Are There exhibits to date, visitors will be introduced to Italian prisoners of war in the chapel they built at Camp Atterbury—their home away from home.

The exhibit, You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury, debuts March 4, 2017, and runs through August 11, 2018, at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in downtown Indianapolis.

In 1943, approximately 3,000 Italian POWs were held at Indiana’s Camp Atterbury. Today, this largely forgotten story from the Hoosier home front during World War II lives on as part of the camp’s history and through the descendents of many POWs.

“This story surprised me,” said Angela Wolfgram, IHS exhibits researcher. “Kindness is a big part of it. Interactions were friendly, unlike what we picture for a POW camp. Also, I was struck by how much the Italians appreciated their time at Atterbury. It wasn’t summer camp, but they enjoyed the food, the interactions with central Indiana residents, recreation time, and even religious freedom. I think this is a hopeful story, and we need hopeful stories.”

Guests to You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury will step into a recreation of the still-existing “Chapel in the Meadow” as actors portraying POWs are completing paintings on the walls. In addition, visitors may interact with actors portraying American soldiers, including Chaplain Maurice Imhoff and Lt. Col. John Gammell, commanding officer of the internment camp.

Outside the chapel portion of the exhibit, guests will discover the history and present-day use of Camp Atterbury through text and photographs. They will uncover the meaning of Italian iconography and see a slideshow presenting the various aspects of the POW camp experience.

You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury is presented by Jane Fortune and Franciscan Health, with support from the Italian Heritage Society of Indiana.

For more information about You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury or other IHS exhibits and resources, call (317) 232-1882 or visit www.indianahistory.org.

WOTUS Executive Order Highlights Recent Federal Activity

  • On February 28, the White House announced that President Trump signed an executive order directing the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works (Corps of Engineers) to review the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule and restore the rule of law. Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) praised this action that would ensure the rule promotes economic growth and minimizes regulatory uncertainty: “I hear repeatedly from my constituents that the main thing holding back small business owners and farmers is over regulation. The WOTUS rule is an example of Washington overreach that is affecting businesses, utilities, manufacturers, farmers and land owners across northeast Indiana. I’m pleased to see President Trump make the review and revision of this rule a priority.” As a reminder, the Indiana Chamber mentioned WOTUS as a burdensome regulation in its list of regulations we sought repeal of in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and sent to the delegation.
  • The White House sent its initial budget guidance to federal agencies this week, outlining a $54 billion increase in defense spending and corresponding reductions to most non-security agencies. An Office of Management and Budget official told reporters that the Trump administration will propose a 10% increase in defense spending and funding bumps for national security-related efforts. But that will mean cuts to domestic programs as well as foreign aid.
  • Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats – President Trump’s nominee for director of national intelligence – faced questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee as phase one of his confirmation process.
  • Hoosier Seema Verma moved another step forward in her confirmation as the next administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee voted 13-12 in support of her nomination, which now goes before the full Senate.
  • Senator Todd Young recently introduced the Investing in Student Success Act of 2017 as an out-of-the-box method of financing higher education. According to the Washington Examiner, “…the funding would not come from the federal government, but private companies who sign ‘income-sharing agreements’ with students. As the name implies, the investor finances the student’s tuition, in exchange for a percentage of the individual’s income for a set number of years after graduation.” According to Sen. Young, “Big picture here: There’s currently $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt held by the federal government, and 43% of the roughly 22 million Americans with loans weren’t making payments as of Jan. 1. There’s certainly a need for some sort of way to finance your college education that does not place the risk on taxpayers.”
  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) invited former Indiana Chamber board member and current Indiana Economic Development Corporation President Elaine Bedel to be her guest at President Trump’s speech this week to the joint session of Congress.
  • I recently visited D.C. and met with the offices of congressional representatives Banks, Brooks, Bucshon, Hollingsworth and Messer. We discussed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, regulatory reform and our D.C. Fly-in event in September. Look for more in-depth information on my visits in next week’s report.

BizVoice Update: CPA Society Effort Moves Forward

The Indiana CPA Society’s Center of Excellence was featured in the November-December issue of BizVoice® magazine. The focus is on competency-based education and the model applies beyond the accounting industry.

In the first of what is expected to be a number of partnership announcements, the ethics course from the Center of Excellence is being added to the accounting curriculum at Indiana University East. View the details on that agreement.

Hits and Misses: The Indiana Legislature Halftime Report

We are pleased that several of our top priorities are alive and in good shape at the midpoint – including long-term transportation funding, pre-K expansion and anti-smoking legislation. All of these tie directly to the Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan.

Long-term transportation funding – tolling around the corner?
This is the Chamber’s top priority in 2017. House Bill 1002 is the proposal to take care of the state’s transportation needs; the 20-year infrastructure plan addresses the erosion in funding that has taken place and the lost purchasing power from the enhancements in automotive technology and fuel efficiency.

We believe that the bill’s proposed gas tax increase is pretty solid. Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), who appears to be taking the lead on this bill in the Senate, may change things like dedicating all of the sales tax on gasoline to transportation needs and put a heavier emphasis on tolling, which would enable the state to undertake major projects like adding additional lane miles to Interstate 70 and Interstate 65 throughout Indiana. Overall, we are very encouraged by the commitment we have seen to date from the House, Senate and Governor. We also realize this will be a little tougher sell in the Senate and are prepared for a strong advocacy effort.

Tax threats avoided; overall outlook good
Everyone should be thrilled that two detrimental proposals – on mandatory combined reporting and sales tax on services – didn’t really get out of the gate. And that’s thanks to the good work of the Chamber’s Bill Waltz over the course of the summer. That means there are no big, threatening tax bills looming for us to worry about.

Instead, this session has brought some positive activity that will improve things procedurally within the Department of Revenue. Additionally, while not involving the Legislature, the Chamber has provided substantial input to the Department of Local Government Finance on a rule with respect to the so-called big box commercial/industrial property assessments. (That input was made possible thanks to a subgroup of the Chamber’s Tax Committee that analyzed the big box assessment issue; we are always grateful to our members for lending their expertise!)

On track: expansion of the state’s pre-K pilot for children from low-income families
Obviously, the expansion – to $16 million total in the Senate (including funds for a new online pre-K pilot); at $20 million in the House proposal – is not as significant as we would like, but we recognize this is still a very young program and are encouraged that what’s being debated is the level of increased funds, not the merit. We also appreciate all of the programmatic language that allows for potential expansion into all 92 counties (SB 276) and increases the income thresholds for eligible families (HB 1004). That said, we are going to continue to work to get as many dollars as possible directed to this. It’s vital for children to have that strong early education as a foundation.

Making the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position still can happen
We remain optimistic this longstanding Chamber goal will be realized this session. Yes, House Bill 1005 will have to be amended because it’s too similar to the one the Senate voted down last week. What happened there was, by all accounts, a blunder created by a perfect storm of factors – including little caucus discussion before the vote. But the good news is that the House bill is alive AND Senate leader David Long (R-Fort Wayne) has assigned it to the Senate Rules Committee that he chairs, so he’s going to go to work on it and will ultimately determine how much of it needs to be changed. We speculate that requiring Indiana residency – which is not currently in HB 1005 – could be one modification. It definitely will have to be different than the failed bill to pass the Senate Rules Committee.

Comprehensive smoking reform, now in HB 1001 and HB 1578, would send big message
We are hopeful that the increased tax on cigarettes ($1 per pack) and funding for a more robust smoking cessation program will stay in the budget bill (HB 1001). Likewise, that the repeal of the special civil rights privileges for smokers will survive on its own in HB 1578; this marks the first time that policy has been passed by either house, so we are making progress. Seeing these three elements cross the finish line would be a clear indication that the state is taking seriously the ever-increasing costs to employers of Hoosiers smoking – more than $6 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity on the job.

The provision raising the cigarette buying age from 18 to 21 is most likely not happening this session after its removal in the House Ways and Means Committee. That group felt there wasn’t enough definitive information or testimony.

ISTEP, energy and technology updates
The Chamber is supporting legislation that will replace ISTEP with a shorter, more focused assessment. You can put all the debates and disagreements aside because this has to happen this session.

We are encouraged by the Senate’s passing of SB 309, an energy bill, which, among other things, addresses net metering for those investing in wind and solar energy; we believe the bill is consumer-friendly. Moreover, utilities have offered up some ideas and concessions that we think will help control electricity prices. The water infrastructure proposal (SB 416), while not funded, sets up the appropriate framework and keeps that needed policy moving along.

The budget bill (HB 1001) contains some pro-technology priorities, including the transferability and expansion of the venture capital tax credit. This would incentivize additional out-of-state investors without state tax liability to invest in promising early stage Indiana companies. Additionally, the open data measure (HB 1470) would allow public access, in an appropriate way, to the tremendous amount of data the state has collected. This is one of a couple of new initiatives coming from our Indiana Technology & Innovation Council policy committee. To see these efforts making progress right away, in their first session, is very encouraging.

A disappointment for the Indiana Chamber
There were several bills centered on litigation that couldn’t get out of committee. That’s because there are too many attorneys on both civil justice committees who are standing with trial lawyers, which essentially is blocking any sort of tort reform.

BizVoice Tech, Innovation Series Moves Forward; Reid Health Joins as Lead Series Advertiser

The Innovation Connector is a full-service business resource incubator focused on emerging tech and innovative companies in East Central Indiana. In January 2017, the group launched the Coding Connector for area students to promote discovery of coding and programming.

Part 2 of the yearlong BizVoice magazine series on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship is in the books. We encourage you to check out the March-April entries, with the focus on Outstanding Talent, the lead driver in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan.

For the remainder of 2017, we’re proud to have Reid Health on board as the lead series advertiser. Among the upcoming features: meeting the space needs of scale-up organizations, communities investing in their quality of place, financing options for entrepreneurs and more.

The March-April highlights include:

  • Powerful ‘Force’: The second of a six-part series on Recovery Force examines how both team members and advisors were added to the mix to fill critical roles. Also, learn how the co-founders blend their strengths in moving the organization forward.
  • X-Factor: Internship Program Showcases Jobs, City: The Xtern program takes recruitment beyond the job, showcasing Indianapolis and central Indiana to talented young people. The initiative continues to grow and succeed.
  • Vital Connections: Mentoring Snapshot Comes Into Focus: Entrepreneurial leaders in Muncie and Terre Haute discuss mentoring efforts and keys to helping others achieve their business dreams.
  • Quick Hits: A commercialization academy at the University of Southern Indiana, Trine University Hall of Fame and I-Light upgrades.

Access the full interactive version of BizVoice®. If you wish to receive the magazine in print, subscribe online.

Ball State Students to Report from MLB Camps in Florida

The following is a release from Ball State University:

Instead of hitting the beach and soaking up rays over spring break, 13 Ball State students will immerse themselves in professional baseball by producing stories of interest to residents of Indiana and surrounding areas.

Ball State Spring Training will be led March 2-9 by telecommunications professors Suzy Smith and Tim Underhill. Students will report from spring training — an annual event that helps Major League Baseball (MLB) players prepare for the upcoming season and gives minor league players a chance to move up to “The Big Show.”

Students will be responsible for contacting teams and setting up access, organizing and confirming travel, interviewing sources, and producing stories.

“This is an opportunity for our students to work as professional journalists,” Smith said. “Every student will have an opportunity to file a story from a major or minor league baseball training site.”

Students will visit spring training sites of the Houston Astros, New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins. MLB has 12 teams near the coastlines and three in the center of Florida playing in the Grapefruit League.

“We know that the Midwest has a great deal of interest in pro baseball with the popularity of MLB teams in Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati as well as minor league team scattered around,” she said. “At the same time, we have former college and high school players now in the training camps as well as lots of (Midwest) retirees who make their winter homes in Florida. So, there are a lot of great stories out there.”

The team will fill its website and several social media channels with various stories and infographics. Follow Ball State Spring Training at BSUspringtraining.com, on Facebook at Ball State Spring Training; Twitter, @BallState_ST: and Instagram, BSU_ST.

Bill to Allow IDEM to Adopt EPA Guidelines for Coal Combustion Residuals Now Law

HB 1230 (Regulation of Coal Combustion Residuals) was signed into law by Gov. Holcomb last Thursday.

The Chamber testified in support of this bill during the committee hearings and continued to advocate for its passage. This bill makes corrections to existing law to allow the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to have delegated authority from EPA regarding disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR).

The EPA had primacy over Indiana businesses that have CCR disposal issues.

The Week in Federal Affairs

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) launched a new video series this year called, “What I’m Hearing.” In each episode, she discusses one issue based on concerns from her constituents. The most recent episode is focused on health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Brooks states that this coverage is a priority for her and for her colleagues in Congress.
  • Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman introduced
    legislation, H.R. 1121, Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act, and Rep. Brooks is an original co-sponsor. This bill confirms guaranteed health care access, ensures a person cannot have benefits excluded from a plan due to pre-existing conditions and makes sure that people will not pay more for coverage based off of how healthy or sick they may be. This bill will be debated and discussed in the Health Subcommittee, of which she is a member, in coming weeks.
  • Senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, along with local and federal officials, met with Governor Eric Holcomb in East Chicago to discuss the lead crisis after the Governor declared it a disaster emergency earlier this month.
  • Yesterday was confirmation hearing day for Indiana’s former Sen. Dan Coats, who is President Trump’s pick to be director of national intelligence. Coats will appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Representatives Brooks and Larry Bucshon (IN-08) were recently in Japan to discuss economic opportunities and partnerships.
  • Congressman Andre Carson is hosting a Youth Opportunities Fair on March 6 for potential jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities at the Central Library in Indianapolis.