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Indiana wins approval for Medicaid expansion

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) has struck a long-awaited deal with the White House that allows the state to move forward with its own plan to expand Medicaid while still receiving a windfall of federal dollars.

Pence announced Tuesday that he has received a green light for the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, which he called the “first-ever consumer-driven health care plan for a low-income population.”

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The plan comes with a conservative twist, bucking the federal government's blueprint for Medicaid expansion by requiring participants to pay a monthly premium to help offset costs. 

Indiana will become the 29th state that has expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare. Pence, who is considered among the potential GOP candidates for 2016, becomes just the ninth Republican governor to accept federal dollars under the program.

Talks between Indiana and the Department of Health and Human Services had been stalled for months. When Pence left a meeting in October with HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, he said no deal was reached because “differences remained.”

Under Indiana’s plan, about 350,000 low-income individuals and families would receive coverage for the first time, the governor said. The program will begin accepting applications immediately.

The deal also includes a raise for Medicaid doctors. The increase in reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers is part of a deal with the Indiana Hospitals Association, which has agreed to help fund the state’s plan.

Reimbursement rates were slashed nationally under the Affordable Care Act, which had little impact in states that also received federal dollars through new Medicaid programs. But states like Indiana that had not received extra federal dollars have felt intense pressure from hospitals to raise their rates.

Pence joins Republican governors including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

The group has drawn scorn from other conservative state leaders, such as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who have remain staunchly opposed to expanding the government-run program.

States were initially required to expand Medicaid under the initial healthcare law, until a Supreme Court decision ruled that each governor could decide.