The Indiana Senate Public Health Committee is advancing a proposal to expand Medicaid using the state’s health savings account plan.

The panel voted 9-3 today to request that the federal government allow Indiana to use its Healthy Indiana Plan to cover the roughly 400,000 residents who would qualify under an expansion.

The measure, which has the backing of Gov. Mike Pence, now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.   A similar proposal has been introduced in the House.

During a hearing on the bill, Senate lawmakers heard from a succession of witnesses who support Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“What our clients need more than anything when they come to us is access to the treatment, to the system,” said Fred Duncan, CEO of the Little Red Door, an agency that helps underinsured cancer patients. 

The state’s actuary has estimated a full expansion alone would cost roughly $2 billion over seven years. The Indiana Hospital Association released a study this week placing that cost at about $500 million.

But lawmakers say they don’t know yet how much it could cost to use the Healthy Indiana Plan.