[r63] Fostering a healthy Indiana

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, July 12, 2013

For years now, our country has been in the midst of a healthcare debate, which effects how Indiana offers various health care options. While the federal government has passed legislation to mandate that we all carry health insurance, here in Indiana, we have been hard at work trying to keep people healthy. 

The average individual has a variety of options in regards to their health. They are able to choose not only the health insurance plan which best suits their needs but also how to do the little things each day to live a healthy life. For the general population to be healthier, personal responsibility is essential. However, some individuals are unable to make those important decisions and require an added level of protection. 

The Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), our strategy to create a healthier state, strikes a balance between all of these ideas for lower-income Hoosiers. Under the HIP, the state provides health insurance to uninsured Hoosiers least able to afford coverage while financially incentivizing them to adopt lifestyles that keep them healthy and out of the doctor's office. This has been a widely popular program that provides a safety net for those who need it most, while also providing a financial incentive for enrollees to weigh different medical options.

Health insurance isn’t the only avenue for keeping people healthy. The Legislature tries to make sure that harmful drugs either have the appropriate age-restriction or are illegal and out of communities. Many people are surprised when they learn that until this year, minors were able to purchase electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, a non-tobacco product that contains nicotine. 

This session, the General Assembly applied the same age restriction on e-cigarettes as already existed for conventional cigarettes (House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1225). Legislative fixes to new products or services are generally delayed given the constant wave of innovation in our society’s marketplace.

Those involved with the e-cigarette business are supportive of this legislation in order to prevent a youth nicotine problem before it starts. Food and Drug Administration regulations are expected within the next few years, so this will keep Indiana ahead of the curve. 

If a merchant is caught selling to a minor, the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission will be able to assess a civil penalty. The revenue from this will then be contributed to fund the enforcement of youth tobacco laws, youth smoking prevention education as well as education and training for retailers who sell tobacco products. The HIP also includes funding for smoking reduction.

We also passed legislation to make sure police officers are prepared for scenarios dealing with individuals who have Alzheimer’s or dementia (HEA 1044). With an aging Baby Boomer population, it will likely not be uncommon for an increase in Alzheimer’s patients and those suffering from senile related dementia issues, so I supported the legislation to have in place the necessary safeguards to ensure the well-being of all Hoosiers. 

The Law Enforcement Academy will now have to provide six hours of training regarding persons with Alzheimer’s disease or related senile dementia. This will provide our men and women in uniform with the necessary tools to quickly identify people in their community who have these diseases and appropriately respond to and interact with them. 

This is an added layer of protection for the elderly, a group of citizens who deserve to be cared for and respected. By passing this legislation now, we aimed to stay ahead of this problem and ensure that officers are prepared to properly deal with Alzheimer’s patients and high risk missing persons. 

The safety and well-being of Hoosiers is critical. As a state, we need to make sure that vulnerable members of our society are being taken care of. For some, that means keeping harmful products out of young peoples’ hands, while for others that means making sure that law enforcement officers know how to handle situations with special care. 

In the end, while these pieces of legislation are targeted to benefit specific groups, they contribute to the greater public health of our state. Improving public health is just one of the many ways we have sought to make Indiana the most attractive state for people to live and raise a family.