Despite urging from Democrats, citizens, businesses and healthcare professionals, Republicans continue to stall.
Senate Republicans said they would hold a hearing on Medicaid expansion on Wednesday. But despite the many citizens who came to be heard — packing the committee room and overflowing into the lobby, according to Whitney Mich, Government Relations Coordinator for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan — there was no action from Senate Republicans.
There was no testimony. There was no vote.
Senate Democrats called for a vote. They called on their Republican counterparts to do the right thing. They provided the testimony Republicans wouldn’t hear from those who came to speak in support of Medicaid expansion, sharing stories of constituents in need. People who can’t keep waiting to find out if they’ll have access to insurance or will have to continue worrying how they’ll pay the bills if they ever get sick.
But it was to no avail. The Senate Republican majority adjourned for two more weeks. In a release, Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer had this to say:
The Senate Republicans may have shown up today, but they clearly weren’t here to actually work. It’s discouraging that Republicans are putting the health and well-being of nearly half a million Michigan residents at risk to play political games, and once again, Governor Snyder was nowhere to be found as this was taking place.
U.S. Congressman John Dingell, who was at the session in support of Medicaid expansion, was disappointed in today’s inaction.
“As an author of the Affordable Care Act, I find the expansion of Medicaid in the state of Michigan to be of fundamental importance. I fought for years to pass national health care in Congress, and to see the issue stalled in my home state for political reasons is thoroughly disappointing. There’s no reason not to enact legislation that would immediately cover 320,000 Michigan residents who are near the poverty line and save Michigan over a billion dollars. I urge Republican Senators to do the job they were elected to do and get this life-saving legislation passed in the Michigan Senate.
The Lansing State Journal reported on the day’s events, quoting Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville on the workgroup formed to continue exploring Medicaid expansion:
“We’ve taken a bi-partisan group of people to take a look at the issue to see if there’s something that can be brought before this committee and to the full Senate for a vote.
IF? Did Sen. Richardville actually say “if” there’s something to discuss and vote on? Providing health insurance to more than 450,000 uninsured Michiganders — including working families, seniors and veterans — would seem worthy of a vote.
But, as the Lansing State Journal article said:
A Senate work group of six Republicans and two Democrats will review the expansion bill passed by the House in June and come up with a compromise to try to appease conservatives who want nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act.
Once again, the rest of Michigan is being held hostage by the demands of conservative groups, like the Michigan Tea Party activists who are now incensed that Medicaid expansion might cover unmarried, childless people. Apparently, they don’t deserve healthcare, even if they’re among the working poor who simply can’t afford it.
The bipartisan Senate workgroup will meet in private, an issue of concern to many including Sen. Whitmer, who was quoted in the Lansing State Journal:
I have a concern about the work group. There are so many people who want to be heard on this and want to weigh in and see the deliberations. Those desires aren’t able to be addressed with private, closed meetings on this most important issue.
Senate Democrats are listening to the voice of the people — including Mari Martinez, a 37-year-old Lansing resident who is among Michigan’s uninsured and attended today’s session.
The fact that I have to worry about money before my health is horrible. It’s a pretty terrible feeling to think that just because I don’t have enough money, I can’t get the health care I need. I encourage Senate Republicans to think for a moment about the individuals like me statewide whose lives would be changed forever, if they just took the time to vote on this issue.
Groups including the Michigan Nurses Association expressed their deep frustration over the continued delays.
Whitney Mich of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan told me this:
Every day the Michigan Senate fails to expand Medicaid is another day 450,000 Michigan residents are denied access to coverage. Hard-working, low-income families need the security of quality health coverage to get lifesaving care when they need it. Expanding Medicaid would cover more people and save millions of taxpayer dollars that are currently spent treating uninsured people in emergency rooms.
House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel released the following statement:
I’m disappointed in Senate Republicans for failing to take any action on a session they themselves scheduled. They have once again put politics before people by refusing to vote to accept federal funds to provide health care to more than 400,000 Michigan residents, a move which would actually save the state over $200 million annually. Groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association of Michigan support Medicaid expansion because they know it is the right thing to do for small businesses and their employees. While Senate Majority Leader Richardville claims that Senate Republicans need more time to study the issue, this policy decision has already been widely discussed in Lansing for months. Two weeks ago, the House passed Medicaid expansion in a bipartisan fashion, and I call on the Senate to do the same, instead of caving into right-wing fanatics who put extreme ideology before practical solutions.
Democratic candidate for Michigan Governor Mark Schauer spoke out, too, calling it “unacceptable” for Senate Republicans to ignore the healthcare needs of so many Michigan residents. He urged Michiganders who agree to
sign this petition in support of Medicaid expansion.
The waiting game continues. The only advantage is that it gives supporters of Medicaid expansion that much more time to rally and make our voices heard.
This isn’t over. Contact your Senator and speak out in support of Medicaid expansion.
[Image credit: Meme created by Class War Kitteh]