INDIANA– The American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, is working with lawmakers and policy makers throughout Indiana to improve the health of Hoosiers by expanding their access to programs and services that improve health outcomes, including addressing Indiana’s maternal mortality rate that is the third-highest in the country.
During February – American Heart Month – the AHA will continue working with state lawmakers on two policies that address health inequities by increasing access to health services to some of the most vulnerable people in the state.
The first policy would increase enrollment in health care coverage (Easy Enrollment) by implementing an “opt-in” box on state tax returns for information sharing with state health exchanges, increasing access for the more than 200,000 Hoosiers needing free or low-cost healthcare coverage like Medicaid, Health Insurance Program, Children’s Health Insurance Program or marketplace exchange.
The second statewide policy would increase access to postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months for all individuals who are eligible for Medicaid coverage by virtue of their pregnancy, helping address Indiana’s abysmal maternal mortality rate.
The AHA supports maternal health programs because women who have high blood pressure during pregnancy, gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, small-for-gestational-age delivery, pregnancy loss or placental abruption are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease later in life compared to women who have no pregnancy complications.
“These two policies mark a huge opportunity for Indiana lawmakers to show their commitment to the health of Hoosiers,” said Mark Isenberg, chair of the AHA’s Indianapolis board’s advocacy committee. “Unfortunately, Indiana continues to consistently rank among the worst states in many health categories. By increasing access to coverage for both preventive and necessary care, we have the opportunity to help thousands of people live longer, healthier lives.”
At the local level, the AHA continues to work with the Top 10 Coalition in Marion County to improve children’s access to healthy beverages like water and low-fat milk by sponsoring a policy to make those drinks the first choice in restaurant kids’ meals instead of sugary drinks.
In the meantime, the AHA is celebrating three recent policies in Indiana that will positively impact Hoosiers.
“The AHA works with policy makers throughout the year in every corner of the state, so we’re thrilled to celebrate several measures adopted recently that will improve health,” Isenberg said.
At the state level, thousands of Hoosiers with high blood pressure may now have easier access to monitoring devices that will allow them to check their own blood pressure. In December 2021, the Indiana Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning approved a policy request to expand coverage of blood pressure monitoring devices for the diagnosis and management of patients with hypertension and to address barriers to the implementation of self-measured blood pressure monitoring. The OMPP also removed a requirement for prior authorization, eliminating a barrier for patients receiving a device.
The AHA also played a role in two recent local health policies.
In Evansville, the City Council adopted a Complete Streets ordinance in October 2021 that improves access to sidewalks, curb ramps, and crosswalks, helping create a culture of health where people can safely go to schools, work, parks. The policy requires that all road construction and reconstruction projects create complete streets that are safe and convenient for diverse users and all modes of transportation statewide.
And in Indianapolis, the AHA helped pass a policy in August 2021 that increases water access in schools. The policy ensures that all newly constructed schools and schools undergoing major renovations will have water bottle filling stations.
“Hoosiers deserve the opportunity to live long, healthy lives,” Isenberg said. “The American Heart Association is proud to advocate for increasing access to the things that improve health – whether that be access to health care, access to complete streets or access to healthy food and drinks.”