Medicaid Expansion Bill Moves Closer To A Vote

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

"We wanted more reform, a little more accountability in there," Sen. Randy Richardville said. "In fact, a lot more accountability, and that's what we got. This is a better product, something that more people will be willing to support in a broader way."

The Medicaid expansion bill could be moving forward as early as tomorrow.

A Senate committee met Tuesday and gave people a chance to weigh in on the legislation. The panel heard hours of testimony from fellow lawmakers, health organizations, workers, and business owners.

Most notable was that people who don't usually agree were all agreeing on at least one thing: expanding Medicaid in Michigan.

"When you see the hospital, sitting next to small business, the chamber of commerce, the association of health plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield, all saying this is better for the State of Michigan, it makes you step back and say, 'Yea, it probably is,'" Senate Republican Majority Leader Randy Richardville said.

Even some people openly against the legislation at first, like Republican Representative Mike Shirkey, expressed their support for the reforms the Senate workgroup proposed - including incentives for people on Medicaid to lead healthier lifestyles and require more responsibility by the Department of Community Health.

"We wanted more reform, a little more accountability in there," Sen. Richardville said. "In fact, a lot more accountability, and that's what we got. This is a better product, something that more people will be willing to support in a broader way."

There is support on both sides of the aisle and from dozens of organizations all across the state, but still some lawmakers say they're settling for this plan, even though it's not ideal.

"If I held the gavel, we'd have a very different Medicaid expansion in Michigan, but I don't," Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer said. "At this juncture, I think this is the best we can do on behalf of the people in our state."

The people came out strong to show their support for the bill and also their frustration for the lengthy legislative process, protesting outside the hearing and chanting "Take a vote, not a vacation!"

"I think they should stop procrastinating and dragging their feet and do the right thing," home healthcare worker Marcia Bridges said.

That's not an uncommon feeling at this point, even among lawmakers.

"I am anxious to put up the votes, and get this done, because time is really of the essence," Sen. Whitmer said.

Sen. Richardville said he's glad they held off on an earlier vote, and he feels forming the workgroup was the right decision.

The committee is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow. They're also hearing testimony on two different bills, both alternatives to Medicaid expansion. One proposes a free market solution for patients; the other would create a low-income healthcare trust fund.

The committee said it was only fair to let everyone have a chance to express their views on the matter.


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