health insurance

A new state tax could be in jeopardy. Starting January 1, every time an insured patient sees a doctor and the claim is submitted to an insurance company for payment, one percent will be added to the bill. The money will help fund Michigan’s Medicaid program.

The Self-Insurance Institute of America is challenging the tax in federal court.

"This will essentially put in new administrative requirements for how health insurers administer health claims," said SIIA COO Michael Ferguson, who says that’s not allowed under federal law.

Chris Waits / Flickr

More than one hundred workers, union representatives and business lobbyists showed up at the state Capitol today to testify on proposed changes to Michigan’s workers compensation law.

The proposed changes before a state Senate panel would reduce an injured worker’s benefits based on the amount an insurance company believes the worker could be earning at another job.

Chris Luty, with the Michigan State Police Troopers Association, told lawmakers finding a job, especially while injured, is not as easy as some insurance companies would claim.

“What’s available out there – what’s really available out there – and what’s theoretically available out there are often two very different things,” said Luty.

Luty told lawmakers about a state trooper named Drew Spencer, who was hit by a car while on the job. Spencer’s injuries were severe and left him dependent on workers compensation benefits.

“Drew Spencer, like most people within the Department of State Police, has a lot of experience before he came in. He has an education. And when you apply the virtual wage language as I understand it, Drew Spencer would get nothing under this bill, as I understand it,” said Luty.

The proposed changes also includes extending the length of time an injured worker must see a doctor assigned to them by insurance companies rather than their own doctor.

Carl Alden, with the Michigan Association of Chiropractors, says letting injured workers visit their own doctors makes sure workers get the best medical care so they can get back to work more quickly.

“The success of Michigan’s current system shows that making a change is not in the best interest of employers, workers, Michigan, and ultimately the insurers,” said Alden.

Business groups say the proposed changes would help reduce fraudulent claims from workers and provide stability for businesses.

The Senate panel is expected to continue hearings on the workers comp issue when the Legislature returns from a two-week break next week.

Fewer than 100 unmarried state employees are expected to sign-up for health care benefits for their domestic partners by the end of this month.

That would mean less than $600,000 would be spent on live-in partner benefits paid for by the state.

The preliminary estimates are well below what some Republican lawmakers said taxpayers would end up paying for the benefits.

Republican state Representative Dave Agema (R-Ottawa Co.) sponsored a measure to end domestic partner benefits for public employees in the future.

"Numbers aside, it really doesn’t make any difference because what we have now, if it doesn’t stop, it will only grow in the future," said Agema. "We haven’t included the colleges and the local governments and so-forth, so it would only be increased to millions and millions of dollars in the future."

Agema’s proposal could not reverse the decision by the state Civil Service Commission to allow for public employee domestic partner benefits.

user: vitualis / flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder presented a health address on Wednesday that outlines his plan to improve the health of Michigan residents. Here to take a look at the politics behind the plan are Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants. How are Democrats and Republicans reacting to the governor's plan?


LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature have started another attempt to block the offering of taxpayer-paid health insurance to domestic partners living with
public employees.

The House passed legislation by a 64-44, mostly party line vote Thursday aimed at prohibiting public employers from offering the benefits. The legislation advances to the Senate.

Minority Democrats say the bills are unconstitutional and would be challenged in court.

Republicans supporting the bills say they reflect the will of Michigan voters who decided in 2004 to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The Michigan Civil Service Commission has voted to allow domestic partner benefits for some state employees starting in October. Republicans tried to overturn the decision but couldn't get the two-thirds majority vote needed in the House.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

An alliance of medical and educational associations is working to get more children signed up for free or low-cost health insurance programs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield would undergo major changes under proposed legislation.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office is reviewing Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's plans for a joint venture involving a Medicaid coverage company.

The Detroit-based Blue Cross and Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross are purchasing AmeriHealth Mercy, which has Medicaid managed-care contracts in states including Pennsylvania, Indiana, and South Carolina.

Schuette said Friday he wants the Michigan-based Blue Cross to provide his office with documentation related to the transaction.

Blue Cross officials said they welcome the inquiry and will work with him to clarify questions about the transaction.

The joint venture could provide an opportunity for Blues insurers nationwide to expand into Medicaid coverage just as states are seeking ways to save money in the program and the ranks of Medicaid enrollees is poised to grow.

A new tax on all health insurance claims waits for approval from lawmakers in the state House. As Michigan Public Radio’s Laura Weber reports, the tax is essential to balance the budget for the coming fiscal year.

Lawmakers must approve the health insurance claims tax in order to replace the existing tax on Medicaid HMOs. The federal government is expected to rule later this year that the existing Medicaid tax is illegal. To continue to receive funds from the federal government to help pay for Medicaid the state must approve the new tax on insurance claims.

Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said they do not like the new tax proposal – Republicans saying they will not vote for a new tax, and some Democrats arguing that it would disproportionately affect some seniors who had their pensions taxed earlier this year.

The House is expected to approve the tax changes when lawmakers return in a couple weeks.

Mark Coggins / Flickr

A new survey found the state of Michigan is not ready to implement the health care overhaul passed by Congress. The Affordable Health Care Act is supposed to go into effect in 2014.

Marianne Udow-Phillips  is the Director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation. She says more people will be eligible for Medicaid under the new health care act and this might overwhelm an already strained health care system:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 Federal and state prosecutors are suing Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan.

 The non-profit health insurance company is accused of violating anti-trust laws. 

When Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan negotiates a contract with a hospital, it includes a provision giving it a discounted rate compared to other health insurance companies. 

Blue Cross insists that allows it to provide its members with discounted hospital stays.    But the US Justice Department and Michigan’s Attorney General’s office disagree.