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Senate GOP agenda focused on reading proficiency, child care, health care access

Tyler Johnson speaks into a microphone on the Senate floor. Johnson is a White man, bald, wearing a suit and tie.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
Sen. Tyler Johnson (R-Leo) discusses part of the Senate Republican caucus's agenda on Jan. 11, 2024. Johnson's bill restricts the use of prior authorization by insurance companies.

The Senate GOP caucus's session agenda unveiled Thursday is focused on education, child care and health care access.

Senate Republicans say holding students back in third grade if they fail the statewide reading test is a “last resort” under their priority legislation to address reading proficiency.

Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond) said the SB 1’s focus is identifying early those students who are struggling to read.

“Schools will check with students in kindergarten, first and second grade to make sure they are on track to be proficient in reading by the end of the third grade,” Raatz said. “All students who are not on track must be given extra support through reading remediation.”

The only students allowed to advance to fourth grade if they fail the third grade reading test are English learners, students with intellectual disabilities and those with individual education programs, students who’ve been held back a year already and those who pass the third grade math test.

The Senate Republican agenda also includes child care legislation, SB 2, which Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) described as an “infrastructure” issue.

“Because it affects every aspect of our economy,” Charbonneau said.

READ MORE: 2024 legislative session begins as House Democrats, Republicans unveil agendas

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The bill would reduce some child care regulations and launch a pilot program for child care microcenters — facilities that serve no more than 30 children. The aim is to study whether such centers would help boost availability in rural areas.

Senate Republicans also want to significantly restrict insurance companies’ use of prior authorizations for health care procedures and services.

Prior authorization is when insurance companies require pre-approval for medical service before they’ll pay for it. Sen. Tyler Johnson (R-Leo) said what was initially intended to help lower costs, and reduce fraud and waste has become a burden on health care providers and patients.

“Because prior auth slows down or even stops their ability to get care,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s bill, SB 3, would ban prior authorization for routine and emergency services and common prescription drugs. It also limits the amount of prior authorization insurers can require to 1 percent of health care providers and 1 percent of any given service.

“We don’t need somebody second-guessing every claim,” Johnson said.

The bill also puts time limits on how long an insurance company can take to approve prior authorizations — 48 hours for most services once the insurer has received the necessary information and 24 hours for urgent services.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.