Medicaid expansion approved by Michigan House, headed to Senate.
In a Republican-led Michigan House vote, hundreds of thousands additional low-income adults became eligible for Medicaid.
Lawmakers approved expanding Medicaid eligibility in 2014 to 320,000 adults making up to 133 percent of the poverty line. According to estimates from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, by 2021, nearly 500,000 Michiganders could enrol in the government-funded health insurance program.
“I believe it’s time for us to stop playing defense with something that is the law of the land and begin to play offense,” said Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, who was an opponent of Medicaid expansion before changing his mind. “This is a very unique opportunity for us to negotiate from a position of strength to get reforms in what have been long-held entitlement reforms, real reforms that will help people and help taxpayers.”
The measure is now in route to Senate, where passage will be more difficult due to the Republican dominate chamber. Under legislative rules, the House had to vote this week if the Senate is to approve the bill before lawmakers break for the summer next week.
“The majority leader has listed Medicaid reform as one of the issues he’s interested in taking a hard look at before the session is done and he intends to talk to his caucus about further action on Tuesday,” said Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
By way of the federal health care overhaul, states can expand Medicaid to adults making up to 133 percent of the poverty level, or roughly $15,300 for an individual. The U.S. government is offering to cover the entire cost initially and 90 percent down the road.
New enrollees would be required to pay a portion of their medical expenses after being on the program for six months and to pay additional costs after receiving Medicaid for four years. Additionally, the newly eligible would no longer be covered if savings from the expansion do not cover the state’s costs in the future.
Michigan cannot proceed with its plan unless the federal government signs off on the bill.
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“I think it’s a failed program, so why would we expand it? It’s as simple as that,” said Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw, who said his understanding is House leaders would not have called a vote without assurances of Senate passage.
Adults ages 21 to 64 and making between 100 and 133 percent of the poverty line would have two options after four years under the legislation: buy government-subsidized insurance through a new health insurance market or stay on Medicaid by paying more out-of-pocket costs.
The four-year provision would not apply to those earning under the poverty level.
Believed benefits of the bill include saving money by improving the health of more poor people and minimizing their trips to the emergency room, and helping businesses meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The state would save $200 million annually as a result of more people being covered by federal Medicaid dollars.
Opponents contend that federal money is derived from taxpayers and question large government expansion when the U.S. is trillions of dollars in debt. A group of tea party and conservative activists have voiced their opposition of Snyder’s expected re-election bid due to his push to expand Medicaid coverage.
Expanding Medicaid eligibility could cut Michigan’s uninsured by nearly half. Uninsured residents with higher incomes will be covered by a new federal insurance market offering taxpayer-subsidized private plans.
Christopher J. Berry is a Michigan elder law attorney Dedicated to helping seniors, veterans and their families navigate the long-term care maze. To learn more visit http://www.michiganelderlawattorney.com/ or call 248.481.4000