GOP Schism Jeopardizes Michigan’s Medicaid Expansion


Michigan’s effort to expand Medicaid for low-income residents suffered a major setback on Thursday that it may not recover from after Senate Republicans adjourned for the summer without voting on the provision.

The move was a snub to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who has championed the expansion, which states are entitled to under the Affordable Care Act at little cost to them. It’s expected to provide health care coverage to some additional 470,000 state residents.Snyder held a press conference late Thursday and lashed out at his GOP colleagues.

“Ensuring access to affordable, quality health care is one of the most significant challenges facing Michigan,” the governor said. “Unfortunately, the Senate did not even bring this critical legislation up for a floor vote before leaving for the summer. That’s unacceptable. Our senators need to take a vote, not a vacation.”

Meanwhile, Democrats are blaming the failure on Snyder’s own lack of leadership.

“Today’s failure to expand Medicaid is another painful reminder that Rick Snyder talks a good game about leadership, but can’t deliver a win to save Michigan taxpayers billions on health care expenses or provide health coverage to our citizens,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson. “Democrats were prepared to pass this legislation with bipartisan support. More than 400,000 citizens in Michigan are depending on this legislation. Governor Snyder failed and it is time for new leadership in Lansing that can get the job done.”

Michigan Democrats also pointed out that Arizona’s Republican Gov. Jan Brewer recently enacted the Medicaid expansion for her state after a series of heated clashes with Republican lawmakers against her proposal.

The Michigan House passed legislation to expand Medicaid last week, relying on a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans. Hospitals and health care providers across the country are lobbying states to adopt the idea. Conservatives strongly oppose the Medicaid expansion and see its rejection by states — which was made possible by the Supreme Court — as their last line of defense against Obamacare.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R) signaled he hasn’t given up on the issue. Republicans have a 26-12 majority in the chamber and Richardville said he doesn’t want to allow a vote on the expansion unless at least half of his members are on board. But it’s unclear that they will be. And passing it would likely require him to call a special session during the summer recess. The next fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

“I want to make sure that this is truly bipartisan,” Richardville said, according to a local report. “We’re talking about huge money, we’re talking about huge implications. We have 12 Democrats — I think 13 Republicans is a reasonable amount to request on something like this.”

Meanwhile, Snyder is calling on the Senate to return to complete the job.

“I encourage all Michiganders to ask their senators why they left Lansing for the summer without finishing their work,” he said Thursday. “That’s what I’m going to do.”

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