State Republicans Refuse Medicaid Vote, Cost Michiganders Billions

Despite appeals from small businesses, health care professionals, ordinary citizens, Michigan companies and job providers — and even Gov. Rick Snyder, their party's standard-bearer — Michigan's Senate Republicans went on summer vacation and refused to vote on a plan that would help more than 400,000 Michiganders get access to health care.

This common-sense bipartisan plan, which passed the state House, would help low-income uninsured individuals earning around $15,000 a year get care through Medicaid. It would reduce the number of Michiganders without health care by nearly half. In addition, this plan would help around 7,000 veterans — men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our nation — get health assistance.

The proposal includes much-needed reforms that include anti-fraud safeguards, incentives for healthy behaviors to prevent illnesses down the road, and stronger accountability and reporting measures.

Medicaid expansion is part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2010. The U.S. Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, ruled that the act is constitutional.

The act aims to increase access to healthcare for all Americans and ease the cost burden of providing health insurance, usually paid for by employers and individuals.

For low-income residents and small businesses, those costs can be crippling — leading many to forego care or only get treatment in emergency rooms, which ends up costing far more in the long run on them, on hospitals and health providers, and on the rest of us.

The federal government will cover the cost of expanded Medicaid coverage through 2016.

This common-sense proposal is expected to bring more than $20 billion into Michigan. By providing access to more people through Medicaid, Michigan also stands to see around $2 billion in new economic activity, while reducing our state budget costs by $1.2 billion. By rejecting this Medicaid plan, Michigan would turn our backs on more than $23 billion — and hundreds of thousands of our citizens, their families and local communities.

Senate Republicans bear the full blame for this.

They are more concerned about scoring political points with an extreme but vocal minority of voters from the so-called Tea Party. They run from doing the right thing to save their own political hides and avoid primaries that jeopardize their election in 2014. And worse, they are telling blatant lies to give themselves political cover and mislead Michiganders.

Here are some facts:

The Medicaid proposal uses federal dollars that are already allocated under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a law the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld as constitutional. State dollars are not affected, and saying otherwise is a bald-faced lie and scare tactic.

Embracing this Medicaid plan actually gives Michigan more control over our Medicaid dollars, not less.

By rejecting this plan, Senate Republicans are effectively shifting the financial burden of coverage on job providers, effectively raising taxes on Michigan small businesses and overall costs for all consumers. That's why business groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association of Michigan support the Medicaid plan and have repeatedly called for the passage of the proposal.

Senate Republicans' refusal to act on the Medicaid proposal and listen only to a small, extreme minority in their districts further illustrates how dysfunctional our Legislature has become. Elected officials from both parties put politics before good policy, thumbing their noses at political consequences because many of them represent districts gerrymandered to maximize political influence, not responsiveness, responsibility or good governance.

The Medicaid debacle, affecting many Michigan families, is another illustration of the need to find a way to hold our legislators more accountable. It's more proof we need to reform the way we draw our political districts so legislators respond to the people and good public policy, not the shrill threats from the peanut gallery currently being occupied by the Tea Party.

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