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Legislators Mull Michigan First
LANSING — Though nearly everyone seems to support the concept of providing health care insurance coverage for the state’s uninsured, some question Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s proposed Michigan First Health Care Plan and others are asking for fuller detail on the plan. Below are comments the Business Journal solicited from legislators on both sides of the aisle.
State Sen. Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming
As Sikkema sees it, the problem with the plan is that it’s sketchy at best; the governor doesn’t even know what the actual program will look like.
“Since the governor attempts to alienate our state from President Bush every chance she gets with political demagoguery, it’s doubtful the federal government would bend over backward to help
Adler said that while Sikkema supports the idea of providing more health care, he is a realist and understands that it would only come at a significant cost that must be paid for somehow.
“No one has been able to tell us how much the governor’s plan will cost and how she will pay for it,” he concluded.
State Sen. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek
Schauer said that reducing the burden of health care costs to
“The governor’s Michigan First Health Care Plan is an innovative, cost-effective plan to do just that,” Schauer said. “By providing health care for people, specifically the working poor, who do not have access to either traditional insurance or Medicaid, it will save both plan participants and taxpayers in the long run.”
Schauer said the plan is “certainly viable.”
“Over one million
State Sen. Tom George, R-Kalamazoo
George believes the governor’s funding proposal for Michigan First is unclear. He said his understanding of the waiver process is that the federal government may grant a state a waiver for use of federal Medicaid funds if the state is going to make a change that’s going to save the federal government money in the future.
“With the governor’s plan to expand coverage, I don’t see how you can show that’s going to save money,” George said. “If you’re covering more people, you’re going to spend more money, so I don’t think the argument works for getting a federal infusion of dollars.”
The plan also lacks a provision to prevent adverse selection, he said: “Adverse selection is when we offer insurance coverage to a bunch of uninsured people, and most of them are healthy and don’t see a need for it, so you only get people who are sick signing up.”
George said the fact that the state saved the federal government Medicaid dollars in the past is another way of saying that the state’s Medicaid payments to hospitals and providers have been too low. In his estimation, if the state is going to change Medicaid, it should be restructured to reward people for healthy behavior.
“I don’t think the plan makes
George is the pri
State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East
“Roughly a million people in
Rep. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell
“Philosophically, I think most of us in the Legislature would like to see more people covered by health care insurance,” Hildenbrand said.
He said the challenge is that with a $1 billion price tag on the proposed health care plan, how will the state pay for it? As he sees it, the governor has talked about leveraging some federal dollars, but that effort hasn’t panned out yet.
“The balance of the cost would come from the state, but I don’t know how we would come up with the $400 million or $500 million in additional revenue to fund this without raising taxes, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable going back to the taxpayers to ask for additional revenue to qualify more people for state-run health care.”
Given the more than $1 billion cost of the plan, Hildenbrand doesn’t see it moving from concept to reality. He also thinks it’s “far fetched” to think the plan could be implemented as early as next spring.
He said it would be great to have all
“That’s sort of the model that we want to work towards: Get our unemployment rate down, get a business tax structure and a regulatory structure that business can do well in, and then
Rep. Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids
Sak said he is “absolutely supportive” of the governor’s health care insurance plan and hopes the state can secure the $600 million waiver in Medicaid funds from the federal government to put the plan into action. He pointed out that the $400 million in state revenues that would also go toward funding the plan is money that’s already used to cover the uninsured in
“I think, first thing, that everyone in
He suggested that under the Michigan First plan, people who were formerly uninsured would be more inclined to make appointments with pri
“If we can get that Medicaid waiver, I think it will be good for all citizens of
Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids
Kooiman said he agrees with the impetus behind the plan because health care is an important issue for employers in
“My position is that the devil is always in the details,” Kooiman said. “We have current fiscal issues with our Medicaid program; it’s a huge part of our budget and growing at an unrestrained rate. If we buy into this proposal, what happens if employers drop their employer-sponsored coverage so that their employees are eligible for this program? Do we end up taking up a whole bunch more individuals than the governor originally proposed?”
Kooiman asked: What happens if the federal government closes the waiver a few years down road? Does the state simply discontinue the program, leaving a lot of individuals without health care again, or does it become a burden to tax payers through the state’s general fund dollars?
“Is changing our tax policy the better route to encourage employers to provide employee health benefits by tax credit, as opposed to the current single business tax law that increases their tax liability if they do provide health care benefits?” he said. “I’ve always said that we ought to create incentives for employers to provide employee health care coverage. Which is the better approach: Create a government program or provide the incentives for businesses that already provide the majority of health care coverage in
Rep. Doug Bennett, D-Muskegon
Bennett thinks Granholm is trying to do something that really needs to be done.
“The people who don’t have insurance now don’t go to a doctor anywhere until they have a medical emergency. Then they go to the emergency room and by that time you’re into a big medical cost — not just the emergency room, but the fact that they didn’t take care of their illness up front.”
Overall, he said, the plan would give the working poor health care insurance coverage and it will be cheaper in the long run, because they won’t be inclined to wait until their illness is so advanced that it costs a lot more to treat.
“The problem I see here in