LANSING -- The Republican-led Michigan Senate took an initial, hesitant step on Thursday toward setting up a state health insurance exchange that would be created under federal health care reform requirements.
The Senate passed a bill by a 25-12 vote that would help set up the Internet-based marketplace to assist small businesses and individuals with buying health insurance. The measure advances to the Republican-led House.
Democrats supported the measure but Republicans were split.
Republicans don't want the vote to be seen as an endorsement of the federally mandated health exchange, part of what critics sometimes call "Obamacare." But Republicans also are leery of potential federal government interference if Michigan doesn't pass its own measure.
Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican from Grand Ledge, said he had to "hold my nose" while voting for the bill. But some Republicans wouldn't vote for it all.
Federal law requires each state to create an exchange where individuals and small businesses can buy health coverage by 2014. The federal government would create an exchange for states that don't comply.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, has joined more than a dozen other attorneys general in a lawsuit challenging the federal health care changes. Many Republican senators support that lawsuit, and they passed a resolution in support of the effort Thursday.