The Indiana Legislature should never shy away from fact-finding missions, particularly for our state's most pressing needs.

Meanwhile, our entire state should be concerned about children of economically struggling families lacking access to the best and closest medical care.

It's why the Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee's apparent intention to gut a bill that would create a pilot program for fairness in child medical care compensation is wrong.

Indiana House Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, did the right thing in sponsoring the original bill related to children who receive Indiana Medicaid benefits.

A plethora of lawmakers agree with Soliday's plan. It passed 92-0 in the Indiana House.

Right now, Chicago hospitals receive a fraction of the Medicaid reimbursements paid to Hoosier hospitals but still continue to serve Region patients who seek that standard of care.

And a legitimate fear exists, among some state lawmakers and child health-care advocates alike, that Chicago hospitals won't continue providing services to Hoosier children given lower reimbursement rates.

The bill would have created a pilot program under which the University of Chicago children's hospital, which is located minutes from the Region, would have been reimbursed for treating Hoosier children at the same rate as the main children's hospital in Indianapolis, which is located hours from Northwest Indiana.

Soliday rightly argues that the pilot program would help the state better understand the complex problem of health-care funding for sick and economically disadvantaged children.

In short, the bill would have created a real-life trial run, which is at the heart of every pilot program.

Instead, the Senate committee — led by Sen. Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen — intends to amend Soliday's bill, sending it to summer study session rather than enacting the pilot program.

It's a frequent move used to kick the can of a legitimate problem down the road.

We're particularly disappointed the bill's Senate sponsor, Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, supports the amendment for a summer study session.

What are the senators afraid of?

Charbonneau argues the bill could open a floodgate in which all Chicago hospitals would seek reimbursements from Medicaid at the higher rate paid to Hoosier hospitals.

But Soliday's bill would form a pilot program to see how such a model could work — one potentially beneficial to some of the most vulnerable Region residents.

Strong leaders must show courage and seek solutions, not shy away from what the facts may or may not show.

Existing data already show the Hoosier state has much work to do in serving sick children from economically disadvantaged families.

Indiana's infant mortality rate is 7.3 deaths per 1,000 births — outpacing the national rate of 5.79.

In Lake County, that tragic rate climbs to 10.5 deaths per 1,000 births.

Sick children on Medicaid in Lake County stand to benefit the most from the pilot program proposed in Soliday's bill. Meanwhile, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb continues to push a statewide goal of reducing the infant mortality rate to 6 deaths or fewer per 1,000 births.

The Legislature should agree to address the facts and allow the plan to go forward. Nothing will change if solutions aren't attempted.

© Copyright 2019, nwitimes.com, Munster, IN