Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

November 30, 2012

Panel rejects state-run health exchange

LANSING (AP) — A Michigan House panel on Thursday rejected a proposal to create a state-run online market where people can compare and buy health insurance plans, leaving Michigan to continue down the road of teaming up with the federal government on the mandated health exchange.

The House Health Policy Committee defeated the health exchange legislation by a 9-5 vote, with two members abstaining. The state Senate approved a bill, but the House delayed action because its Republican majority had opposed President Barack Obama's federal health care act.

With Obama's re-election, GOP leaders have acknowledged the president's health care plan will move forward and a decision must be made about the insurance exchanges that are part of the plan. The defeat came despite the belated support of House Speaker Jase Bolger, who opposes the Obama plan but believes a state-controlled exchange is preferable to one led by the federal government.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder prefers a state-run program, but his administration this month applied for a federal grant as a first step toward the fallback position of teaming with the federal department.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said that the House committee's rejection of the measure means the administration will stay on that path, but it keeps open the possibility of a state-run exchange if additional federal deadlines are extended or the House decides later to authorize it.

States have the option of creating their own exchange, teaming up with the federal government or having a federal system. More than 500,000 Michigan residents are expected to buy private insurance through the exchange once it's up and running in 2014, including some who already have coverage.

"It was my hope the committee would find that a state-run exchange afforded us more control over the unacceptable over-reach by the federal government regarding the health care of Michigan citizens," Bolger said Thursday in a statement. "However ... it is clear that there were too many unanswered questions for the committee to feel comfortable with a state-run exchange and we will not have one in Michigan."

Committee Chairwoman Gail Haines, a Waterford Township Republican, said she was disappointed by the vote, particularly after Obama was re-elected and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the federal health care law.

"The people of this state have spoken," she said, adding the issue would remain dead "until there's a little bit more compromising."

Some Democrats opposed the legislation because it was linked to bills that would prohibit qualified health plans offered through a state exchange from providing coverage for elective abortion but would allow people to buy optional supplemental coverage for elective abortion outside the exchange. Democratic Rep. Kate Segal, a Democrat from Battle Creek, was one of two who abstained from voting because she said the committee rebuffed her bid to have the abortion bills separated from the larger health exchange legislation.

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