Republican-Led Michigan Senate Votes to Expand Medicaid

The Republican-led Michigan state Senate voted to expand the Medicaid health program for low-income people, accepting a key facet of U.S. President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul.

Yesterday’s 20-18 vote in which most Republicans were opposed, was the last major hurdle for the legislation, which must return to the state House before Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, signs it into law. The House, also controlled by Republicans, passed the measure for the first time in June.

“Healthy Michigan will make our state healthier and stronger,” Snyder said in a statement after the vote. “It also will save money for the state’s taxpayers and job providers, help control medical costs, improve the state’s business climate, and boost our economy.”

An expansion of state-run Medicaid programs next year is one of two pillars of the federal Affordable Care Act, which may extend health coverage to about 25 million uninsured people nationwide. The Obama administration has labored to persuade Republican-controlled states to embrace any aspect of the 2010 health law, which largely takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.

The Healthy Michigan Plan would increase Medicaid coverage by about 470,000 people. Snyder was among a small group of Republican governors -- including Arizona’s Jan Brewer, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Florida’s Rick Scott and Ohio’s John Kasich -- to push for Medicaid expansion.

The federal government pays for 100 percent of the cost of the expansion until 2017, when states must then begin to contribute a share that rises to 10 percent by 2020.

State Participation

Half the U.S. states including Michigan are participating in the expansion or planning on it, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Menlo Park, California. Five more state are considering it, and the rest have refused.

The expansion would save Michigan about $1 billion through 2020 by reducing or eliminating spending on state programs for the uninsured, according to a March analysis of Snyder’s initial proposal by the state’s Senate Fiscal Agency.

The expansion won’t begin to cost the state money until at least the 2023 fiscal year, the Senate agency said, and perhaps not until 2035.

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