Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

June 13, 2013

House panel approves Medicaid expansion

LANSING (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of more low-income adults in Michigan would become eligible for government-funded health insurance under legislation approved Wednesday by a divided legislative committee, setting the stage for a crucial vote in the Republican-led House.

The 9-5 vote came after months of talks in the GOP-controlled Legislature over expanding Medicaid eligibility. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is pushing hard for the expansion before legislators break for the summer at the end of next week.

If the Senate is to approve the bill next week, the House has to act Thursday under legislative rules.

Rep. Mike Shirkey, a Clark Lake Republican who chairs the committee that OK’d the expansion, said he was staunchly against the idea when Snyder proposed it in February. But he was among four Republicans on the panel to join all five Democrats in backing expansion starting in 2014. Five Republicans opposed it.

“I evaluated the downsides, what would actually happen to the state if we did nothing,” Shirkey told reporters. “Things like not being able to address this growing problem of uncompensated care. Things like Michigan being a huge donor state in terms of the new taxes associated with the Affordable Care Act. Those are the kind of things that I said, ‘You know what. We cannot afford to not step up and address those.’”

Medicaid covers roughly one in five Michigan residents — mainly low-income children, pregnant women and the disabled along with some poorer working adults.

Under the federal health care overhaul, states can expand Medicaid to adults making up to 133 percent of the poverty level, or about $15,300 for an individual. The U.S. government is offering to cover the entire cost initially and 90 percent down the line.

The bill includes GOP-written requirements that new enrollees pay some of their medical expenses after being on the program for six months and pick up more costs after getting Medicaid for four years.

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