Traverse City Record-Eagle


March 1, 2013

House OKs $31M grant for health exchange

LANSING (AP) — Rejecting pressure from conservatives, the Republican-led Michigan House voted Thursday to spend a $31 million federal grant for an online health insurance marketplace called for by the federal health care law.

The 78-31 vote clears the way for the Senate to vote next week.

The House’s Republican leader said the health exchange became inevitable once President Barack Obama was re-elected and the Supreme Court upheld much of the contentious law.

“Today’s vote was not about political parties or ideological beliefs but about accepting the responsibility to govern while facing reality,” Speaker Jase Bolger of Marshall said in a statement.

Michigan is among seven states to pick a partnership exchange. The federal government will run the website and call center, while the state will handle some customer service and oversee insurers with health plans on the exchange.

Sixteen states plan to set up their own websites — which Republican Gov. Rick Snyder wanted to do until being blocked by House Republicans last year — while 24 states will give the federal government full control.

Open enrollment on Michigan’s exchange is scheduled to begin Oct. 1, with coverage kicking in Jan. 1. The marketplace is supposed to make it easier to shop for insurance that people have to carry starting in 2014, with some receiving income-based federal aid to help pay their premiums.

Conservative groups lashed out and signaled out two Republicans by name for voting for the spending bill.

“Unscrupulous lawmakers have made it clear that their weakness for federal tax dollars surpasses their commitment to reducing federal spending and debt,” said Scott Hagerstrom, state director of Americans for Prosperity.

The Snyder administration says using the $31 million grant will save Michigan from having to spend its own money to link with a federal exchange. It also argues that Michigan-based insurance companies will be saved from an extra layer of regulation in Washington under a partnership.

The House added a provision to the legislation requiring the use of Michigan insurance agents for customer assistance functions.

Forty-nine Democrats and 29 Republicans voted for the bill. Thirty Republicans and one Democrat opposed it.

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