Michigan Republicans — May 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Michigan House GOP’s proposal makes a mockery of Medicaid expansion


It’s just another end-run around Obamacare that’s almost certain to fail — and could drag Medicaid expansion down with it.

Don’t let the Michigan House GOP fool you. They don’t really want Medicaid expansion in Michigan. They just want you to think they do.

As reported in the Detroit News, legislation introduced by the House GOP on Thursday would require Michigan to get a waiver from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow a 48-month lifetime limit on taxpayer-funded medical insurance for non-disabled adults. That cap on benefits is the centerpiece of their “counter-offer” to Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to expand Medicaid, although they also expect low-income families to pay five percent of their annual income in premiums.

That’s astounding, given that many people eligible for Medicaid struggle just to buy food. Not to mention that, as I’ve written here before, Medicaid expansion is funded 100 percent by the federal government through 2016, a figure that drops incrementally to 90 percent by 2020, where it stays. That means a majority of Medicaid expansion is paid in full. The rest is covered by taxes citizens already pay to the federal government. No one is being asked to pay more. In fact, the state of Michigan stands to bring in about $2.1 billion through economic activity created by Medicaid expansion.

So not only do the House Republicans not understand math, they also don’t appear to understand Medicaid expansion. And, apparently, don’t have an ounce of compassion.

Here’s what House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) had to say, as quoted in the Detroit News:

It goes entirely to our belief that government assistance is not an entitlement, nor is it a lifestyle, if you’re an able-bodied adult.”

House Republicans claim their proposal would exempt children, the disabled and the elderly. But they’re using the vaguest possible terms. What qualifies someone as an “able-bodied adult”? Does a man with asthma receive only four years of Medicaid because he can walk? Does a woman have to bear all the children she plans to raise in four years or miss out on essential prenatal care services? Do people with cancer have to stop getting treatments when their four years are up? Health conditions like epilepsy, heart disease, arthritis and countless others don’t just disappear in four years.

The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, explicitly states that insurers can’t cap benefits, so it’s unlikely CMS will agree to the Michigan House GOP’s proposal. I suspect Michigan Republicans know that full well, but are simply stalling and spinning, to look as if they’re trying to work with the Governor, Democrats, healthcare providers and citizens who support Medicaid expansion.

Speaker Bolger claims these caps are modeled after other “welfare” programs such as food stamps or housing assistance. But how can you put a limit on someone’s health? The answer is you can’t.

Michigan Democrats have called the proposal “shameful.” Here’s what Rep. Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak), had to say, in the Detroit News piece:

Kicking [people] off the program after four years is immoral. Health care costs are going to rise as soon as these people who have been getting care lose their insurance and have to head back to the ER.

According to a report in Crain’s Detroit Business, House Republicans claim that when four years are up, people on Medicaid will all have jobs and be able to afford private health insurance. But considering the Michigan legislature’s woeful track record on job creation in recent years, that’s a ridiculous excuse. Unless the House GOP can promise those people jobs with benefits or ample salaries, why on earth would they refuse federal funding that provides Michiganders with health insurance?

House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) addressed the point emphatically in a press release:

This plan is a slap in the face to anyone in desperate need of health care who had hoped our state would do the reasonable thing and accept federal funds to expand Medicaid. We should have done the responsible thing and accepted federal funds to pay for Medicaid expansion, bringing health care to 400,000 Michigan residents who currently have none. Instead, Republicans want some of our most struggling families to pay 5 percent of their annual income to get limited access to health care for a short time only — while insisting the state never contribute a single penny to the program Republicans proposed. It’s heartless, irresponsible and an insult to the people of Michigan.

Governor Snyder and supporters of Medicaid expansion have said they are willing to work with the legislature to find a compromise that meets federal law. I applaud their continued efforts to make Medicaid expansion happen. I’m just not convinced Michigan Republicans share their commitment.

Speaker Bolger claims this proposal is a first step in Medicaid reform. That’s all well and good, but that’s not the issue currently on the table. Accepting Medicaid expansion needs to happen now or hundreds of thousands of Michiganders will remain uninsured, creating a financial drain on our hospitals and costing those who do buy insurance more money in the long run.

If House Republicans want to propose Medicaid reform, fine. But tying it to Medicaid expansion will achieve nothing but slowing down, if not preventing, Medicaid expansion in Michigan — at the expense of everyone and everything but the GOP’s continued efforts to thwart Obamacare every chance they get.

[Poisoncare sign photo by Chris Savage | Eclectablog]

  • Chris, you’re over thinking it. It’s really this simple: Medicaid expansion is central to Obamacare, ensuring an est. 35M uninsured get health care. Republicans hate Obama. Anything with his name on it or push behind it they will obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. They don’t care who suffers. It’s not like it their wealthy/corporate masters will be affected. It’s just us 47%ers. You know, we the moochers.

    • I agree that Obamacare’s failure is their ultimate goal. I think that was the point Amy made in her final sentence,

    • Republicans hate Americans, hate unions, hate social programs, pretty much hate anything that doesn’t line their pockets with more money and themselves with more power.

  • Carolyn 4444

    Bolger should be in a State cell for his election shenanigans, not in the State House! I can’t believe he wouldn’t even allow L.Brooks Patterson’s witness speak in regards to Medicare expansion…probably because due to Patterson’s accident injuries and that of his driver’s, the view presented from this Republican would certainly NOT MATCH his own! Bolger is a blight on the state of Michigan!

  • My housemate was kicked off whatever health plan she had gotten from the state. She has been trying to find work, and has taken several jobs that have almost crippled her in her effort to be “an able-bodied adult”. She is 54, has a bad back and is a tiny woman, yet the only jobs she is able to find require lifting up to 50 pounds, being on her feet the entire time, no stopping, no talking and work hours of 12-16 hours a day, 5-7 days a week, for about $8 an hour.

    I ask you as a 55 year old woman with severe arthritis, high blood pressure and diabetes, how are we supposed to work within these dimensions put out by a group of old, fat, white men who haven’t had to work hard a day in their lives? A large segment of the population that has been out of work for several years now are people who are in their late 40s and 50s. No one wants to hire us because we are going to be retiring (maybe, if they don’t manage to destroy social security that is) soon, or because we already come with health problems, or because they just don’t frigging care, they want us to take what they want to give and nothing more or less than what they want to give.

    They are busy destroying unions that got us liveable wages, fair hours and safe working conditions. I can see the difference already where I work and we still have a union contract that they can’t break, but they will when that contract is up, trust me.

    You realize that the only people who will stay in Michigan with this conditions, topped by failing school systems, are those who can’t afford to go any place else, and those who have more money than God and want slave labor. I cannot tell you how depressed all this has made me. I am an Illinois transplant, I moved here and fell in love with a fairly liberal state that seemed to care about people, and was beautifully surrounded by giant inland freshwater seas. Now, I’m counting the days until I can retire so I can move back to a state I swore I’d never live in again.

    • We’ll get control again in 2014. We ARE a liberal state that has been temporarily outflanked by our political opponents.

      Stick around. Michigan is worth fighting for.

      • For the sake of Michigan, I hope the republican voters wise up and real fast! I am disabled with a brain injury ~ was fired from seven jobs in five years because I couldn’t remember a simple password or where I had filed paperwork. What am I supposed to do? I have extremely high cholesterol (almost 800) and can’t even afford my meds or even go to the doctors! Snyder and Bolger make me cry every single day.
        And this R2W? They can stick that! My son just lost his job because he was punched out on his break and using his cell phone! Now what kind of crap is that? My sister got fired last week and was given no reason! She worked there just under 10years!
        I would love to move! But, to where? These repubs in Congress and all states with red governors have screwed up this country so badly, there is no where in America to go!

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