If Bill Schuette wins, Michigan’s Medicaid expansion will be dead


Republicans have left Healthy Michigan in peril and only Gretchen Whitmer will save it — again

When it comes to preserving health insurance for 680,000 Michiganders covered by the state’s Medicaid expansion program, the question is who do you trust — the woman who fought to expand it in the first place or the guy who joined “at least nine lawsuits” to end it?

Even fans of the sudden reversals of professional wrestling would be stunned by Bill Schuette’s clownish sudden turn into a defender of Healthy Michigan.

Just 5 months ago he was attacking his primary opponent by characterizing a defense of Medicaid expansion as trying to bring more “Obamacare to Michigan”. And this followed years where his primary obsession — besides denying gay couples the right to marry and adopt — was shooting legal and rhetorical darts at the heart of the Affordable Care Act, while generally avoiding his job and other matters, including the poisoning of Flint.

But now that Schuette is running scared from Donald Trump, again, and running as far as double digits behind his Democratic opponent Gretchen Whitmer, he’s being laughed out the state with his sudden “I HEART Obamacare” stance.

While Schuette’s claims are a joke, the need to defend this hard won coverage is serious as a cancer diagnosis.

Healthy Michigan will likely face two serious threats to its existence in the next four years — both of which come from Schuette’s party. Either of them could mean the end of a program that has resulted in “lower unpaid debt; fewer bankruptcies, evictions and late payments; and higher credit scores for individuals — especially the sick,” according to a recent study by University of Michigan health economist Sarah Miller.

First, if Schuette comes from behind to win the governorship, that will likely mean there has been no “blue wave” and Republicans will keep the U.S. House of Representatives while expanding its majority in the U.S. Senate. And while desperate Republicans like Schuette are posing as ACA converts, Mike Pence is telling GOP donors the truth: A GOP Congress will end the ACA in 2019. This will not only mean the end of funding that has helped to insure 20 million Americans but also huge cuts into traditional Medicaid, based on the Trumpcare bill that passed the House in 2017.

This obviously means there will be no Medicaid expansion to save.

The next threat comes from a poison pill Michigan Republicans planted in the Health Michigan program when they passed into law. “Republican lawmakers added a trigger to the law that would end the Healthy Michigan plan if state costs outweigh savings in mental health and other budget areas,” the Detroit News‘ Jonathan Oosting reports. “Fiscal analysts have warned this could happen by fiscal year 2021 if the law is not changed, which means the state’s next governor may need to reshape state health care.”

Facing an existential threat to the most successful expansion of health coverage in the state since the 1960s, you know what Whitmer would do. She would do what she did in 2013 — lead the battle to insure Michiganders.

If Schuette even attempted to save Health Michigan, there would be almost no chance his party would pursue any sort of compromise to keep it funded. If the program survives, which is unlikely, it would be with a pound of flesh of the most vulnerable Michiganders torn out.

Because of this state’s Republicans, we’re talking about saving a massively successful program that does exactly what government is supposed to do — keep people healthy so they can work and support their families. But first we also need to fix the damage the GOP did to Healthy Michigan this year by adding needless requirements on seasonal workers and caretakers that will likely cost as much they “save.” Schuette has made it clear that he has no interest in doing that.

This ridiculous debate reeks of flop sweat and desperation.

The only people who trust Bill Schuette with Michigan’s Medicaid expansion are the people who never wanted it in the first place. That should tell you everything you need to know.

But you don’t have to believe me. Listen to Jim Haverman, former director of the Michigan Department of Community Health under Rick Snyder:

“Bill Schuette as attorney general … worked against us when we were trying to get the votes in the House. I don’t have any faith if he becomes governor he will continue the Healthy Michigan plan.”

Photo by Anne C. Savage