Michigan Democrats, Michigan Republicans — June 27, 2013 at 7:44 am

Medicaid expansion still matters to Michigan


While Senate Democrats push for a vote, their Republican counterparts claim they need more time to think.

Honestly, what is there to think about? It’s not as if Medicaid expansion hasn’t been in consideration for a year. Even with the recent tweaks in a bill introduced and approved by the Michigan House, this is not a difficult decision.

Medicaid expansion is good for Michigan. But apparently Michigan Republicans don’t like moving quickly on issues that help people. Only the ones that hurt them, like Right to Work (For Less), which they pushed through without hesitation.

After the Senate adjourned for the summer without taking an up-or-down vote on Medicaid expansion, Democrats have kept right on fighting. They recognize the clear benefits of Medicaid expansion: $1 billion in federal funding to provide insurance coverage for nearly 500,000 Michiganders — many of them the working poor, seniors and veterans. The creation of an estimated 18,000 jobs and $2 billion in revenue by 2016. Not to mention that Medicaid expansion is paid for by the federal government 100 percent through 2017. The funding then ratchets down to 90 percent by 2020, where it stays. Governor Rick Snyder has proposed a plan to pay for Michigan’s share through 2035, by banking the savings generated in the first few years.

Gov. Snyder has talked a good game about supporting Medicaid expansion, even rushing back from an ill-timed trip to Israel to hold a press conference where he condemned Senate Republicans for not holding a vote. Then, when he had the chance to call them back into session, he didn’t. Instead, he’s going on a tour of Michigan to tout the benefits of Medicaid expansion.

That’s not action. That’s grandstanding.

Senate Democrats are actually taking action, calling on Senate Republicans to hold a vote on July 3. On Monday, Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer announced that the entire Senate Democratic caucus will be in the Capitol on July 3rd and ready to vote on Medicaid expansion. This is despite the fact that Senate Republicans have said they don’t intend to hold votes on July 3, the next scheduled session day, and don’t feel a need to convene the full Senate again until late August.

Sen. Whitmer and her Democratic colleagues disagree.

Whether Senate Republicans want to actually do their jobs or not, my caucus and I will be in session on July 3rd and stand ready to cast our votes in favor of this program that will provide health care access to nearly half a million Michigan residents and save the state billions of dollars in the process. We need only eight Republicans to be here and ready to work with us that day and I challenge them to do just that.

Senate Republicans insist Medicaid expansion is not dead and they’ve formed a working group to explore it. According to the Detroit Free Press, however, no meeting dates have been scheduled.

The Detroit Free Press wrote that the group will be led by Senator Roger Kahn, who has said expansion could cost the state $150 million to $200 million a year. He didn’t say where he got those figures, however, but he did say this:

That’s among the things that need to be clarified… Who pays it? Who benefits? Who wins? Who loses?

Seriously? Republicans haven’t gotten the answers to these questions yet? They’re the basics of Medicaid expansion.

I suspect it has to do with the inherent lack of trust so many Republicans have in the federal government and particularly in President Obama and Obamacare. Time and time again, they’ve expressed concern that the government won’t hold up their end of the bargain — even though Medicaid has never once defaulted on its payments. (I wrote about that, and plenty of other nitty-gritty details of Medicaid expansion, here back in April.)

Maybe they’ve been listening to too many Tea Party activists and pundits like Dan Calabrese, who wrote the charmingly titled post “Anyone with a brain can see Medicaid expansion is fool’s gold” in the Detroit News. When he wasn’t insulting the scores of policy experts, business and healthcare leaders and citizens who support Medicaid expansion, Calabrese was exhorting us to look at the “facts” — such as the “fact” that because the federal government is in debt it probably won’t pay its share.

Calabrese also got the facts wrong when it comes to the percentage Michigan will pay and when that kicks in. What’s more, his list of “facts” didn’t mention Gov. Snyder’s proposed plan to cover Michigan’s related expenses through 2035. I’m sure by then people with brains can figure out other ways to budget for Michigan’s 10 percent share. Nor did Calabrese refute the propaganda being spread by any of the post’s commenters who basically said that everyone who would benefit from Medicaid expansion is just a lazy moocher who needs to get a job. Tell that to our veterans and working poor who don’t have health insurance.

It’s this kind of ridiculous rhetoric that’s keeping the Republicans on the fence about Medicaid. That and the fear of losing votes from their Tea Party constituents.

But the real facts speak for themselves, and a majority of Michiganders support Medicaid expansion. It’s time to just get the job done already. Stalling won’t change the real facts, and could endanger Michigan’s chances of being ready for Medicaid expansion by the January 1, 2014 implementation date.

Tell Michigan Senate Democrats there’s no time to wait. Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network (MICHUHCAN) has created a petition they want to deliver to the Senate before July 3. Please sign the petition and share it widely.