You probably know the old story about the man who kept hitting himself in the head with a hammer. When asked why, he grinned happily and said, “because it feels so good when I stop.”
Well, the Michigan Legislature reminds me of that, with two big differences. We have begun to regard their nutty behavior as normal, and unlike the guy with the hammer, they show no signs of stopping.
Politically, Michigan is a moderate to liberal state. The state hasn’t voted Republican for president in 25 years. Republicans have lost every U.S. Senate election except one over the last 40 years.
We aren’t right-wing extremists. Except in the legislature, which is controlled by ideologues out of touch with the reality the rest of us live in. I’m not talking about conservatives. Good intelligent conservatives from Arthur Vandenberg to Gerald Ford have helped make this state great. I’m talking about people who substitute ideology for common sense.
A state House subcommittee has rejected an expansion of Medicaid to nearly 500,000 Michiganders. As the Detroit Free Press reports,
"The Appropriations subcommittee handling the Department of Community Health budget passed the funding document without the Medicaid expansion, as well as other Snyder proposals, including: dental services for low income children, health and wellness initiatives, mental health and substance abuse services for veterans and an infant mortality program."
However, according to Rick Pluta, Governor Rick Snyder says he expects the Legislature will ultimately accept federal money to expand Michigan’s Medicaid program.
State House approves dredging funds
"The state House has approved more than $20 million for emergency harbor dredging. Governor Rick Snyder is asking for the money to address record-low water levels in the Great Lakes. He says ships and recreational boaters aren’t able to get in and out of harbors," Jake Neher reports.
March Madness tournament kicks off today
The basketball games leading up to the NCAA championship begins today. As the Detroit News reports, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan's mens' basketball teams have games tonight.
"No. 3 seed MSU will face Valparaiso at 12:15 p.m. and No. 4 seed U-M will take on South Dakota State at 7:15 p.m. Teams moving on in the next round will head to games on Saturday, also at the Palace [of Auburn Hills]."
Expanding state Medicaid programs is part of the new national health care law.
Many Republican state lawmakers say it will cost Michigan taxpayers over a billion dollars during the next decade. But there’s a cost to large Michigan businesses if they don’t.
“Actually, taxes could go up on employers in states that don’t expand Medicaid,” says Brian Hale, the senior vice president for health policy at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, “You need to factor that in to the decision about whether or not to expand Medicaid.”
Governor Rick Snyder yesterday cast a vote for common sense and pragmatism, by coming out in favor of expanding Medicaid to what will, within a decade, include almost half a million people.
Putting purely human considerations aside, the deal makes enormous economic sense for Michigan. The federal government will pick up all the costs of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years. After that, Michigan has to kick in a tiny amount which will never exceed ten percent. But from day one, the feds will cover a lot of expenses Michigan pays for today.
The governor’s staff says this will amount to $206 million dollars next year alone. His budget would prudently stick half those savings in a special fund to save for the day when Michigan does have to pick up a tiny share of the expanded Medicaid costs.
Patient advocates and healthcare organizations are cheering Governor Rick Snyder’s decision to seek an expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the new federal healthcare law.
The expansion would eventually allow 450,000 people to be added to Medicaid, and sharply reduce the ranks of the un-insured in Michigan.
The governor says it would also reduce the overall cost of healthcare in Michigan. And part of the savings can be banked to cover Michigan’s future costs of the Medicaid expansion.
“This is about being financially responsible," said Snyder. "Just like you’d be setting up at home, let’s set up a health savings account here, to cushion for shocks, for unexpected events, and then to have a thoughtful stream of dollars to minimize costs for the long-term."
Health care groups, patient advocates, and some business groups also support the expansion.
They say unnecessary emergency room visits and people who wait to get treated are driving up the cost of care and the cost of health insurance.
Kris Nicholoff is with the Michigan Osteopathic Association. He says that would eventually almost cut in half the number of people in Michigan who don’t have health insurance.
“450,000 people will get coverage that don’t have it right now. Now, you’ve been to the University of Michigan’s football stadium? Four times that. Picture that right now – four times that full patients will receive care if we expand Medicaid," said Nicholoff.
The Medicaid expansion will be part of Governor Snyder’s budget proposal. It will be presented tomorrow. Then it has to be approved by the Legislature. The governor says the expansion will save money in the long-term.
Advocates for the uninsured are pressing Governor Rick Snyder to call for an expansion of Medicaid in Michigan. They delivered more than 4,000 petition signatures in favor of an expansion to the governor’s office yesterday.
Under the federal healthcare law, the state could let nearly 400,000 uninsured residents join the program. The federal government would cover the cost for three years. After that, the state would be responsible for up to ten percent.
Liz Lamoste, with the group Medicaid Matters for Michigan, says the state should take advantage of the offer.
“If the offer’s on the table, we should be in a position to take advantage of it, especially because it makes financial sense for Michigan, and hundreds of thousands of people are relying on us to take prudent responsible action to provide people with more coverage," said Lamoste.
Many Republicans in the Legislature say they don’t trust the federal government to keep its promises. Governor Snyder will announce his plans for Medicaid on Thursday when he unveils his new proposed budget.
Cyndy talks Medicaid expansion with Detroit Free Press reporter Kathleen Gray.
The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.
Is the State of Michigan going to expand its Medicaid coverage? That's the question on the front burner at the Governor's office these days as he prepares to unveil his new budget to the Legislature this week.
Cyndy spoke with Detroit Free Press reporter Kathleen Gray who helped break down the Medicaid program in the state and talked to us about the pros and cons of expanding Medicaid coverage to another half a million people.
The Affordable Care Act will assist states in expanding their Medicaid eligibility limits for adults to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, (that's and income of about $14,860 per year for one person).
Snyder to decide this week whether to expand Medicaid
In his budget address this week, Gov. Rick Snyder will announce whether he'll expand Medicaid. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay for the state to allow an additional 400,000 people in the state to receive Medicaid coverage. The state would eventually have to pay for a portion of the costs, Rick Pluta reports.
Snyder to propose adding $50 to $100 million to Rainy Day Fund
Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to recommend that the state add $50 to $100 million to its Budget Stabilization Fund, better known as the Rainy Day Fund. Some Democrats argue though that now is not the time to be saving. The Detroit Free Press quotes Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.
"For lots of families, it is raining right now," Jacobs said. "There really is the opportunity to take a portion of the money that is in the Rainy Day Fund and use it for families that are experiencing hardship."
Chrysler pays tribute to troops, farmers in two Super Bowl ads
Chrysler's two Super Bowl ads were among the most well-received auto advertisements according to the Detroit Free Press. Chrysler's first ad, voiced by Oprah Winfrey, was a Jeep spot that paid tribute to the military. Their second commercial, an ad for Ram pickup trucks, featured the late radio personality Paul Harvey reading "So God Made a Farmer."
Gov. Rick Snyder says he hasn’t decided yet whether he wants the state to expand Medicaid eligibility.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the state has to decide whether to let more people qualify for Medicaid. If it does, the federal government will pay the costs of an expansion for the first three years.
Gov. Snyder says he still needs to get a clear idea of what that would mean for the state.
“I want to make sure we have access and high quality care if we’re to look into something like that, and say, ‘What’s the net cost to all of us?’”
Snyder also says he wants to make sure health care providers can accommodate adding hundreds of thousands of people to the program.
“The key issue on the Medicaid expansion that I want to do some research on, among others, is do we have enough capacity to put essentially 400,000 more people into a medical home model with a primary care environment, as opposed to having them simply go to an ER?”
Snyder also says he wants to make sure health care providers can accommodate adding hundreds of thousands of people to the program.
A possible expansion of Medicaid in Michigan will be a key part of Governor Rick Snyder’s budget address to state lawmakers next week.
A bill in the Senate would *prohibit* the state from expanding Medicaid. Supporters of the bill say it doesn’t make financial sense. They say there are better options for expanding coverage.
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An audit has found that a Michigan agency made at least $3.3 million in improper payments for wheelchairs, ventilators and other medical equipment as part of the Medicaid program.
The report released Thursday flagged the Department of Community Health for paying claims without prior authorization, making duplicate payments and buying incontinence supplies from the wrong contractors.
State officials say they agree with the state auditor's recommendations for improvement, including setting lower rates to buy used equipment.
Snyder pushes renewable energy and drilling for natural gas
Governor Rick Snyder gave a special address on energy and the environment Wednesday. Highlights of his address include a push for more renewable energy and more drilling for natural gas. As the Lansing State Journal reports,
"The Republican governor gave natural gas a central role in an energy policy that seeks greater efficiency and improvements to infrastructure such as pipelines and the electric transmission grid. It proposes establishing a “strategic natural gas reserve” designed to make the resource more affordable and defends the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to extract gas from deep underground."
GOP pushing for right-to-work in lame duck
Republicans are still working to make Michigan a right-to-work state. This comes after voters rejected a ballot proposal to enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution. As the Detroit News reports,
"Today could be the last chance to introduce a bill making union membership optional as a condition of employment in the private and public sectors to get it passed by Dec. 13. That's the day legislative leaders hope to head home for the holidays."
Sorry Michigan, no one won the Powerball jackpot in the state
"The Michigan Lottery says two Powerball tickets worth $1 million each were sold in the state. Officials say the tickets were sold at a liquor store in Kentwood and a CVS pharmacy in Dearborn. The Michigan tickets matched five numbers drawn last night, but not the Powerball number. Powerball officials said early Thursday that tickets sold in Arizona and Missouri matched all six numbers to win the $579.9 million jackpot," the AP repots.
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.
Secretary of State being sued over citizenship question
"A coalition of unions, voters, county clerks and civil rights groups is suing Secretary of State Ruth Johnson in federal court. The lawsuit challenges Johnson’s instruction that voters who show up on Election Day should be asked whether they are US citizens. But no one can legally be denied a ballot for refusing to check the box. The lawsuit was filed yesterday in US District Court in Detroit. Johnson’s office would not comment specifically on the lawsuit. But she has said the question is simply meant to remind people that only U-S citizens can vote in elections," Rick Pluta reports.
Medicaid tax falls $130-million short of projections
"The state could lose up to $260-million in federal funding for Medicaid this year. That's because of lower-than-expected revenues from Michigan's new one-percent tax on health insurance claims, which started in January. The tax will bring in $130-million less than originally projected for the current fiscal year. That means Michigan will have less money to qualify for federal matching dollars," Jake Neher reports.
CAW extends contracts with GM and Chrysler
The AP reports the Canadian Auto workers union says it has agreed to extend its current contracts with General Motors and Chrysler. Negotiations on new deals continue,
The union had set a midnight strike deadline. But President Ken Lewenza said talks would go past the deadline if there was progress. Earlier Monday the C-A-W reached a 4 -year deal with Ford that freezes pay and cuts wages for new hires. The union wants the deal to be the template for contracts with G-M and Chrysler. A CAW spokeswoman wouldn't say how long the contracts will be extended.
A new state tax to help pay for Medicaid is coming up $130 million short of projections.
The one-percent tax on health insurance claims was supposed to bring in $300 million this fiscal year. Now, budget officials say it’ll only generate about half that. Budget department spokesman Kurt Weiss said the state should be able to scrape together enough money to make up for the missing tax revenue. It is federal matching funds he is worried about.
“If you look at the way the match works, there’s the potential of losing up to $260 million in matching federal funds with this if we’re $130 million short. So, certainly that is part of the concern,” Weiss said.
Weiss said bad projections could be to blame for the gap, or health care providers simply might not be paying their share. He said his department is working with other state agencies to pin down the problem.
“It is a new tax, and it is something new to those that are paying it. So we’re really trying to reach out, do that education, and trying to make sure we’re getting the money from everybody we should be getting the money from,” he said.
Weiss said officials are looking for ways to try and make up the state’s shortfall. If shortfalls continue, he says lawmakers may have to make changes to the tax.
Michigan has to decide whether to expand its Medicaid rolls by up to a half-million people starting in 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision on the Affordable Care Act struck down a portion of the law that would have required states to expand the program or risk losing all federal aid.
Michigan hospitals support Medicaid expansion. They spend billions of dollars each year providing charity care for adults without health insurance.
Governor Snyder has approved a one percent tax on health insurance claims to ensure that medical coverage for low-income families is not slashed by almost a billion dollars.
Everyone who files a claim for a treatment or a checkup will now pay the one percent tax. It will not apply to co-pays or deductibles.
It replaces a six percent tax on Medicaid HMOs. Michigan’s system for financing the Medicaid program for covering low-income families was on the cusp of being thrown out by federal authorities because it did not spread the burden wide enough.
Governor Snyder had a difficult time winning the votes for the health claims tax in the Republican-led Legislature. But he said he was committed to not rolling back health coverage for the poor during tough economic times. The Snyder administration has come under fire by human services advocates for rollbacks in other types of aid for low-income people, including new limits on cash assistance and food stamps.
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.
This just in from Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber:
The state Senate has approved a tax on health insurance claims. The measure is necessary to ensure Michigan continues to receive about $800 million from the federal government for Medicaid. The federal government is expected to rule later this year on whether the state's system for funding Medicaid is legal.
The Senate had put the issue up for a test-vote yesterday but it didn't pass. As Rick Pluta noted in a story before the second vote took place:
Governor Rick Snyder has been pressuring the Legislature to adopt a one percent tax on all health insurance claims. That would put Michigan in compliance with federal rules. Otherwise, Michigan could lose 10 percent of its funding for the entire Medicaid program. The claims tax would generate $400 million, and qualify the state for twice that much in federal funds.
The federal government is expected to rule soon that Michigan’s system for funding Medicaid is illegal. That would put more than a billion dollars in federal funds and the state’s balanced budget at risk unless the Legislature adopts another plan to come up with that money.
Governor Rick Snyder has been pressuring the Legislature to adopt a one percent tax on all health insurance claims. That would put Michigan in compliance with federal rules. Otherwise, Michigan could lose 10 percent of its funding for the entire Medicaid program.
The claims tax would generate $400 million, and qualify the state for twice that much in federal funds.
The governor says the state’s balanced budget for the coming fiscal year is at stake, as well his promise not to cut Medicaid services for the poor as Michigan is just beginning to emerge from a long recession.
“I think it’s a good thing to do to ensure we balance our budget and we have good Medicaid in our state.”
But support among lawmakers for a new tax has been elusive. The measure failed when state Senate leaders put it up for a test vote.
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:
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is accusing a prescription drug wholesaler of illegally inflating prices of medicine purchased by the state's Medicaid program.
Schuette says he's filed a lawsuit seeking to recover millions of dollars from McKesson Corp. The attorney general says Michigan spent about $2 billion on brand-name pharmaceuticals from McKesson from 2001 to 2009.
The lawsuit filed in Ingham County court also names other defendants, including the company that publishes drug pricing data. An email seeking comment was left Monday with San Francisco-based McKesson.
Schuette is promising to "bring the hammer down" on anyone who tries to cheat Michigan. The lawsuit isn't unique. Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout says other states have sued and settled.
Wayne County has launched an initiative to improve health care for low-income children. The Wayne County Child Healthcare Access Program is modeled after a similar project in Kent County. It’s based on a concept called the “medical home.”
Project Director Jametta Lilly says that concept already exists for many kids covered by private insurance. But she says care is often less consistent and coordinated for kids in the Medicaid program:
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will talk about health care fraud prevention at a regional summit at Wayne State University in Detroit this morning.
Law enforcement officials, consumer experts and health care providers are also expected to participate in the discussions, the Associated Press reports.
Waste and fraud cost the federal Medicare program and Medicaid, its state counterpart, an estimated $54 billion in 2009. Holder said at a December summit in Boston that the Obama administration's crackdown on health care fraud has recovered $4 billion in Massachusetts alone over two years.