Michigan panel blocks Snyder’s state-run health exchange plan
A leading Michigan conservative cheered the Nov. 29 decision by one of the state legislative committees to block Republican Gov. Richard D. Snyder’s plan to establish a state-run health insurance exchange.
The governor is absolutely in favor of Michigan having a state-run health care insurance exchange as part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, said Jacob W. “Jack” Hoogendyk, the director of the Citizens Alliance for Life and Liberty and the editor of the “Core Principles” e-letter.
“I am not opposed to the state-run exchange because I want the federal government to run the exchange, I am opposed to it because I think Obamacare is bad and I don’t want to see the state participate and I think most of the 17 or 18 other states that have said they will not set up an exchange are doing so because they do not want to participate at all,” he said.
“Of course there is the question of could the governor find a way to do it through an executive order,” he said.
The man once named the most conservative member of the Michigan legislature said one of the governor’s aides told him directly that after the Supreme Court decision to uphold the PPACA, the governor made his pivot from opposition to support. “He said: ‘Hey, it’s the law of the land, we have to make the best of it’”
The governor announced Nov. 16 that he filed paperwork with the federal department of Health and Human Services to signal his intention to establish a state partnership exchange if the state legislature does not approve a state-run exchange, which he called: “MI Health Marketplace.”
The exchanges are the public market where insurance policies are marketed and purchased.
The governor said if the legislature takes action authorizing a state-based exchange, then Michigan may exercise its option for the proposed MI Health Marketplace and that he had not yet filed a declaration letter formally choosing Michigan’s path.
“Ensuring that Michigan residents have the best available quality health care and customer service has been a priority from Day One,” he said.
“I have felt strongly that a Michigan-run MI Health Marketplace could further accomplish this goal. That said, we must be realistic about how feasible implementing this could be under the current federal timeframes. At this point we’re moving toward a state partnership exchange,” the governor said.
States have until Dec. 14 to inform HHS whether they will establish their own exchanges. The deadline for having an exchange, state-run, state-federal partnership or federally-run, is Oct. 1. The full PPACA takes effect Jan. 1, 2014, if the law remains as written.
The state’s House Health Policy Committee, chaired by Republican state Rep. Gail Haines, also went against the wishes of the Republican Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives James “Jase” Bolger, when it voted 9 to 5 to block the state-run exchange, said Hoogendyk, the former state representative, who lost the 2012 GOP primary against Rep. Frederick S. Upton (R.-Mich.), the moderate Republican, who led the fight to outlaw the incandescent light bulb and who beat back attempts to bring the traditional light bulb back.
The bill to establish the state-run exchange, Bill 693, would have used $9.8 million in federal funds to subsidize the project.
“After the vote, the Speaker sounds kind of final, he sounds like he is ready to give up on it,” Hoogendyk said.
Bolger, who warned federal officials in the months before the vote that Michigan would leave the task of building an exchange to the them, unless they answered key questions, said “After due diligence, 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.”
“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,” he said.
Bolger said he credited the committee’s chairwoman state Rep. Gail Haines for a thorough examination of what it would take to create a state-run exchange in Michigan. “I know her focus never wavered from what is best for Michigan’s citizens.”
The speaker said unless the state-run exchange could be demonstrated as the best way to protect Michigan’s citizens, the committee members had no choice, but to block it.
“The committee apparently was not able to get the answers to key questions or receive assurances about major concerns regarding costs for Michigan taxpayers,” he said. “The ability to adopt a model the federal government wouldn’t ultimately control or the ability to protect religious freedom for Michigan citizens.”
Hoogendyk said, “Those of all who are opposed to the state-run exchanges, in the circles that I run in, are opposed to Obamacare, period.”
Setting up a state-run exchange would be surrender or at least an acknowledgement of defeat, he said.
Hoogendyk said the movement to make Michigan a right-to-work state, which the governor supports, is also a complicating factor.
“One interesting dynamic, and I heard this from a state rep. I won’t name because I didn’t get his permission to do that, he told me that it is his opinion that that the Democrats are not going to give the Republicans they want for the rest of the years—as long as they think a right-to-work vote might come up,” he said.
“They told the Republican leadership: If you cram this right-to-work thing down our throat, we’re not going to give you anything,” he said.
“You would think that the Democrats would want the exchange, but they could vote against it to prove some kind of point, I don’t know,” he said. Three Democrats on the committee voted against the state-run health insurance exchange.
“Until they adjourn, you can’t be absolutely positive.”