Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

August 25, 2013

Fred Goldenberg: State Senate doesn't address poverty

Let’s start with the facts.

Twenty five percent of Michigan’s children live in poverty; 10 percent of all Michigan seniors live in poverty; 18 percent of women in Michigan live in poverty; and 42 percent of single-parent families with related children live below the poverty level.

The statistics also show 17.5 percent of all Michiganders live in poverty, with 8.1 percent living in extreme-poverty. More than 14 percent of families live with food insecurity every day. Yet 31.6 percent of these individuals are working. Of those working, 21 percent are working at minimum wage, which is $7.40 per hour. Thirteen percent are uninsured.

Here’s another fact: the Michigan state Senate doesn’t care.

At the end of July the Michigan Senate adjourned for a little taxpayer paid R&R without voting on the issue of Medicaid expansion through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Gov. Rick Snyder proposed legislation to expand Medicaid under the federal program and the Michigan House passed the Governor’s bill. Snyder's plan is called Healthy Michigan, and would require new Medicaid recipients to cover 5 percent of their out-of-pocket medical costs.

After 48 months, that co-pay would increase to 7 percent or the recipient could purchase insurance on a health care exchange.

On July 31, under extreme pressure, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) held hearings on the issue in his Senate Government Operations Committee (a whole three hours’ worth) and the vote was to move not only Snyder’s plan forward, but two competing plans as well.

Sen. Patrick Colbeck’s (R-Canton) bill would shift current Medicaid recipients into a free-market solution, involving $75-per-month premiums and high deductibles for recipients. The other by Sen. Bruce Caswell (R-Hillsdale) would shift responsibility for the cost of providing health care to low-income Michiganders to the state, rather than the federal government. It also would be limited to those who fall 100 percent or below the federal poverty level. Under the federal plan states can expand Medicaid to cover individuals and families earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, which is $15,500 for an individual; $26,500 for a family of three, and $30,000 for a family of four.

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