Senate Debates Medicaid Expansion Bill

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The Medicaid expansion debate moved to the Senate on Tuesday, but there wasn't much heated discussion.

The House approved the measure last week, and now senators are going over that bill very carefully.

Both Republicans and Democrats spent the day in and out of caucus, which is exactly what Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville wanted. He said lawmakers should take their time on something this important.

"I want them to completely understand it, and feel like they know what the ramifications are," Sen. Richardville, (D) Monroe, said. "We're discussing, why do you like it? Do you like it? What are the pros and what are the cons?"

To most Democrats, the pros are obvious: More than 300,000 people in Michigan would get health insurance they couldn't previously afford, and the state would save up to $200 million a year.

"It really should be a no-brainer," Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, (D) East Lansing, said. "This is something that goes to the long-term financial health of our state, as well as literal health of the people of our state."

She said it's the right thing to do morally and financially, and believes that's why Governor Snyder supports it. But not many Republicans are on board.

"The federal government says they will pay for it for a couple of years, but then we have to come up with $300 million or maybe more," Sen. Rick Jones, (R) Grand Ledge, said. "So, I'm debating, what would we cut? That's what everybody's afraid of."

But many say Republicans are just afraid of supporting Obamacare. Admittedly, Sen. Richardville said he doesn't like the idea of a federal handout or big government program, but after a lot of discussion, he's not opposed to the current bill.

"I believe in it, I think it is the right thing to do," Sen. Richardville said. "I think the changes that have been made to it really make this a much better bill and can help a lot of people out in Michigan, including small businesses, small business people, and folks that probably will never be able to afford insurance on their own."

He also likes the way things are going in the Senate.

"I think the debate has been very respectable so far," Sen. Richardville said. "People are agreeing to disagree, but doing it in a way that I think most of the constituents could be proud of them."

The Senate was in caucus until late afternoon, and didn't vote on the Medicaid bill. They could take it up tomorrow, but there's no guarantee.

Many believe it will be a close vote. If the Senate does approve the House bill without any changes, then it heads to the Governor's desk. If there are amendments, then it will need to go back to the House.

It's possible the Senate won't vote on it until after the summer break, which starts at the end of this week.

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