affordable care act

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37,000 low-income Michiganders and small-business customers may be eligible for health coverage through a new health insurance cooperative, the Lansing State Journal reports.

With $72 million in federal funding, Consumers Mutual Insurance of Michigan is an alternative health care option for families and businesses looking for coverage after provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect January 2014.

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House committee works on road repair plan

A state House committee is working on a $1.6 billion plan to pay for repair and maintenance on Michigan's roads.

"The plan would result in higher fuel taxes and driver fees. But it would also eliminate the six percent Michigan sales tax on fuel purchases," Rick Pluta reports.

Flint dumps contract with DWSD

"The city of Flint is dumping its contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Flint emergency manager Ed Kurtz signed a contract yesterday to get the city’s water from a new pipeline that’s being built from Lake Huron to Genesee County...A spokesman says the Detroit water department will have to look at its options  to try and recoup investments made to Flint’s water system," reports Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody.

Michigan addicts become eligible for insurance

Nearly 88,000 drug and alcohol addicts in Michigan will become eligible for insurance starting in 2014.

"Michigan health officials say the state's substance abuse care system will be able to handle the surge of people who will become eligible for alcohol and drug addiction treatment under the federal Affordable Health Care Act," the Associated Press reports.

For as long as I can remember, the Republican Party has stood for local control. They don’t like Washington telling the states what to do. When Democrats have been in control in Lansing, they didn’t like the state meddling in local matters. Today, this continues to be true in one sense.

It’s clear that the Republicans running our legislature don’t like the federal government setting health care policy for the states. That’s why they’ve refused for two years to establish a state registry to help match Michiganders who will now need to buy health insurance with various private care providers.

Basically, those running our legislature want to pretend that the Affordable Care Act is going away soon. Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was fully constitutional. Never mind that the last presidential election was fought largely on that issue, and President Obama was decisively reelected.

They so hate higher levels of government telling lower levels what to do, that they refused to create a health care registry, even though this means that Washington will create one for us anyway, and we will lose millions as a result.

Well, you might figure that if the Republicans believe this that strongly, they’d be against meddling with employment policies set by local units of government.  But you’d be wrong. At least, that is, when it comes to benefits for workers.

A state House subcommittee has stripped a provision from a budget bill to expand Michigan’s Medicaid program.

The money to add more than 400 thousand people to Medicaid would come from the federal government under the new national healthcare law.

Some Republicans say they don’t trust Washington to keep that promise or that they want to see some changes to Medicaid before they’ll support it.

Roger Martin is the spokesman for a coalition of businesses and healthcare providers that supports the expansion. He says concerns that the federal government will eventually cut off the money is unfounded.

“I can’t name one instance where the federal government has made a promise in law, that was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Congress and the president had, and then pulled the plug on. I can’t name one. So basically I think it’s a Trojan horse argument.”

Governor Rick Snyder says he expects the Legislature will ultimately accept federal money to expand Michigan’s Medicaid program

“This is just a part of the legislative process. There are usually some challenges. But, again, the track record’s good about overcoming barriers. Do you get everything you want? Not necessarily, but you work hard and achieve the goals that really count – relentless positive action.”

Governor Rick Snyder called for the Medicaid expansion in his new budget proposal. He considers the subcommittee action a temporary setback.

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Part of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) calls for an expansion of the Medicaid program, but some state legislators and governors are resisting the expansion.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is NOT one of those governors resisting.

When he announced his support for the expansion last month, he said it was about being "financially responsible."

Republicans in the Michigan Legislature, however, seem to disagree.

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Like it or not- for it or against it - Obamacare is coming, and coming soon.

The Affordable Care Act requires that most Americans carry some form of health insurance beginning next January or pay a fee. And by October 1, less than seven months from now, states need to have health care exchanges in place where consumers can buy the required insurance.

Last week, the State House agreed to let the state spend a federal grant worth nearly $31 million to help set up that health care exchange.

What would it mean for Michigan to partner with Uncle Sam in running this exchange?

For that answer, we spoke with Helen Levy. Levy is a research associate professor at the Institute for Social Research, the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, and the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan.

FreedomWorks

The Affordable Care Act requires that for those Americans who can afford it, they must carry some form of health insurance starting on January 1st, 2014 or pay a fee.

Online 'health care exchanges' will be set up to help people buy health insurance who can't access it through an employer. If the states don't set up an exchange, the federal government will.

Gov. Snyder wanted legislators to set up a state-run exchange last year, but Republican legislators refused to vote on it, hoping the federal health care law would be overturned.

That didn't happen and the timeline for a state run exchange has passed.

Now some state Republicans are reluctantly voting in favor of a setting up a federal-state run exchange.

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A bill to set up a healthcare exchange in Michigan has passed its first hurdle in the state Legislature. A House panel today voted to accept more than $30 million from Washington to set up the exchange.

It would be a partnership between the state and the federal government under the Affordable Care Act.

House Appropriations Chair Joe Haveman says the alternative would be a federal exchange with no state control.

“Although it may appear like it was a step in the wrong direction or endorsing Obamacare, this was the conservative vote. The other vote was the liberal vote to say ‘we want the federal government to take us over.’”

Governor Rick Snyder wanted an exchange run entirely by the state. But lawmakers did not act in time, and that’s now off the table.

The bill now goes to the floor of the state House.

Changes could make Blue Cross Blue Shield a nonprofit mutual

Dec 13, 2012
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The measure to make Blue Cross Blue Shield a nonprofit mutual is under way.

Peter Luke of Bridge Magazine spoke with Cyndy about health care changes in Michigan.

According to Luke, the reform would put Blue Cross into the hands of policy holders.

“They [Blue Cross Blue Shield] have 70 percent of the market share and in some forms of business, critical to this legislation, they have almost 100 percent. Most of their role is in administrative capacity. For 70 years they’ve been a benevolent trust established by the State of Michigan to be the insurer of last-resort and that was codified in 1980. What this law does is turn them into a nonprofit mutual so they’re no longer owned by the people of Michigan but by the policy holders.”

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Many Republicans in the Michigan Legislature want to allow health care providers, or insurers to deny service to patients based on religious, moral or ethical objections.

The "Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act" passed the state Senate last Thursday during the tumultuous 'right-to-work' debate.

Now a House Committee has approved the bill, which will allow it to go before the full House. The Michigan House could vote on the measure today, which would send it to Gov. Snyder's desk.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

On a straight party-line vote, the state House insurance committee voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would allow health care providers and facilities to refuse service based on a moral objection, religious reasons or matters of conscience.
The bill now moves to the full House, where it could be considered as early as this afternoon and, if approved, would move to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.

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A federal grant will put more primary care providers in medically-underserved areas of southeast Michigan.

The $21 million grant will help train medical residents in five federally-qualified health centers.

The program is a partnership between Michigan State University’s medical school and the Detroit-Wayne County Health Authority.

Chris Allen is CEO of the Health Authority. He says it will add much-needed primary care doctors to the medical safety net.

“And it ultimately will provide medical homes for the people who live in these areas, and thus not a reliance on the emergency room for their care," he said.

Allen says residents who participate in the program will be eligible for medical school loan forgiveness.

The plan is to train 85 residents over three years, starting next summer. Allen says after learning the practice in southeast Michigan residencies, the new doctors will stay in the area.

MichigaMichigan Gov. Rick Snyder at a Univ. of Michigan basketball game.n Gov. Snyder gets cagey on subject of weight loss.
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Governor Rick Snyder is "staying positive" about the failed effort to set up a state-run health insurance exchange.

Under the national health care law, states can set up web sites where people can shop for insurance plans.

States that don’t will have to use whatever the federal government sets up.

Snyder wanted Michigan to set up its own exchange, but the effort died in the Republican-led state house. So I asked him…

"Are you bummed at all about the health care exchange at all?"

"I don’t get bummed about much, I’m a positive guy."

Snyder says he knew the state-run exchange might not have gotten set up in time to meet federal deadlines.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t come back and say here’s a whole series of reasons that really have value and bring it up again.

In the meantime, Snyder wants to cooperate with the federal government.

Kaiser Family Foundation

updated 1:23 p.m.  from Gongwer News Service:

With the vote, House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) issued a statement saying there will be no state-run exchange. Bolger spokesperson Ari Adler said it is "highly unlikely" the bill will be reconsidered.

The Affordable Care Act requires that states set up online "health insurance exchanges" by 2014 so consumers can shop for their insurance plans.

The exchanges are supposed to work like an Expedia or Travelocity for health insurance.

If states don't set one up, they'll be required to use a federal exchange.

Republicans in the Michigan legislature have resisted setting up a state-run exchange, hoping the Supreme Court or a Republican President would knock down the Affordable Care Act.

Neither of those things happened, but the resistance continues, as Chris Gautz of Crain's Detroit Business reports today:

The state House Health Policy Committee this morning voted down a bill that would have created a state-based health insurance exchange, with Republicans continuing their opposition.

Rep. Gail Haines, R-Lake Angelus and chairwoman of the committee, voted yes on SB 693 — to audible groans from those packed into the hearing room. But the measure failed on a 9-5 vote, with two abstentions.

A motion then was made to reconsider the vote, which Haines moved to pass for the day and then adjourned the meeting.

Gautz reports "It is unclear whether the House committee will take up the bill again."

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This week Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss how Michigan will comply with the Affordable Care Act, and how the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Michigan's constitutional ban on affirmative action does not hold up under the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause. Lessenberry also remembered the late former first lady, Helen Millikin.

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Michigan's longest serving first lady, Helen Milliken, dies at 89

Helen Milliken was Michigan’s first lady for 14 years, from 1969 to 1983.

The Detroit Free Press writes of a Republican who fought for causes that sometimes were at odds with the party:

Helen Milliken is perhaps best remembered as Michigan’s leading proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ERA, which would have banned discrimination based on sex and authorized Congress to adopt laws enforcing it, came close to passage (it was approved by Congress and 35 of the needed 38 states, including Michigan).

But she was also a leading advocate for the arts and environment, becoming a political force in her own right.

Missing today's due date, Michigan gets a health care exchange extension

Michigan Republicans don't care for it.

And they've been hoping that provisions of the Affordable Care Act would get struck down. That hasn't happened, and one deadline for action is today.

But as MLive's David Eggert reports, they've been given an extension to decide on whether to set up a state run health care exchange:

The Obama administration late Thursday gave Michigan another month to decide if it wants to build its own online marketplace where individuals and businesses can shop for health insurance.

The deadline had been set for today. But in a bow to a request from the Republican Governors Association, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius extended the deadline until Dec. 14.

Detroit Mayor reaches deal to keep city afloat

The dire financial projections for Detroit continue, with some predicting the city could run out of cash in December.

But Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports, Mayor Bing has reached a deal with the state worth $137 million:

Mayor Bing says the agreement will help the city make changes it needs, and avoid running out of cash as early as next month.

"We're asking for $10 million in the month of November. We meet the milestones we've agreed upon, we're asking for $20 million in December, and then we've got another $50 million that will be held in escrow at a later date," Bing said.

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Health insurance exchanges, a crucial part of the federal Affordable Care Act, will have a great impact on Michigan residents.

To better explain the exchanges, we spoke with Helen Levy. A research associate professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

Levy is well-versed in the fine points of the Affordable Care Act.

“A Health insurance exchange is a marketplace designed to bring together people who want to buy insurance and companies that want to sell it to them,” said Levy.

The sites on which the plans will be featured will follow the templates of other marketplace sites.

“It’s going to look something like Travelocity but for health insurance. You can scroll through the policies and see what the different premiums are. The exchanges are intended to include community rating. It’s a key part of making affordable insurance available to everyone,” said Levy.

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In health news. . .

Officials with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan say the state Legislature must pass bills to overhaul the health insurer by the end of the year. Under the measures, Blue Cross would become a customer-owned non-profit, and would have to pay state and local taxes. The Lansing State Journal reports,

Even though it would lose its tax-exempt status, Blue Cross says the change in classification — and the lower government regulation that goes with it — is essential for it to be able to compete with other insurers under the Affordable Care Act.Under federal law, Blue Cross must have its products and rates ready by March for an online health exchange where people can compare and buy their own insurance plans, but the organization won’t make it because of the way it’s currently regulated by the state.

Meanwhile, as Rick Pluta reports, "Michigan is unlikely to meet a Friday deadline to tell the Obama administration if it will create a statewide online exchange for people to shop for health insurance. The alternative is for Michigan to become part of a federally managed exchange."

Tribe asks federal court to dismiss lawsuit to block Lansing casino

"A federal judge is being asked to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at stopping plans for a casino in downtown Lansing. The Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians delivered its response this week to the lawsuit filed by Michigan’s Attorney General in September.  The lawsuit claims the casino project violates federal law as well as a gaming compact between the state and the tribe. The tribe says that’s not true. The tribe wants to resolve this legal challenge before asking the federal government to take the land around Lansing’s convention center into trust.   The land must fall into trust…before the tribe can begin construction of its casino," Steve Carmody reports.

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Over 10 years, Michigan could save a billion dollars and get more than 600,000 previously uninsured people health coverage.

That's the upside of expanding Medicaid in Michigan, according to a new study from the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation (CHRT) in Ann Arbor. 

The federal government can't force states to expand their programs, but they are offering big incentives: for 10 years, the feds will pick up 100% of the costs of covering newly-eligible Medicaid patients, as part of the Affordable Care Act. 

The leader of another Michigan business is suing the federal government over provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

John Kennedy, CEO of Kentwood-based Autocam Automotive, filed a complaint in a federal court in Grand Rapids Monday. In it, he says his company shouldn’t have to provide employees with health insurance that includes contraception coverage he considers “intrinsically wrong and gravely sinful”.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Catholic legal group says parts of President Obama’s health care law violate their clients’ religious freedom.

Representatives for the Thomas More Law Center made their arguments on behalf of business owners in a Detroit federal court Friday.

The groups charge that they shouldn’t have to provide employees with health insurance that includes contraception coverage—the so-called “HHS mandate”-- in violation of their first amendment rights.

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