House Republicans were nearly evenly divided on Thursday over legislation allocating federal funding for a federal-state partnership on the federally mandated health insurance exchange under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but the legislation still passed by a comfortable margin.
The bill was passed by the House on a 78-31 vote, with 30 Republicans and one Democrat voting no. Forty-nine Democrats and 29 Republicans voted yes. The bill will accept $30.67 million in federal grant money to set up the partnership in the online health exchange.
AARP Michigan has advocated in favor of the health insurance exchange because it would enhance access and affordability to health care for seniors and other consumers.
House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said in a statement he “reluctantly” encouraged his Republican colleagues to approve appropriating the funds for the health insurance exchange after President Barack Obama was re-elected and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the health care law constitutional.
“House Republicans did everything we could to prevent the implementation of a government-run health exchange because we believe putting patients and doctors in control of health care decisions serves our citizens best, not a federal bureaucracy,” he said. “It would be easy to do nothing, thereby surrendering control entirely to a federal bureaucracy, but that would not be right.”
The money appropriated by the bill would be available until January 17, 2014, and would be used to create an online health care exchange by October 1, when enrollment would begin. The exchanges, which allow residents to compare different health insurance providers, become effective January 1, 2014.
Rep. Kevin Cotter (R-Mount Pleasant) said he is uncertain how much control the state will actually have in the exchange, which is why he voted no on the bill.
“It is money from the federal government, and I think we have to be very cautious here,” Mr. Cotter said. “It was discussed as being money for the IT portion, but it’s only a small portion of the money that goes to IT implementation. I think a major portion of that money is going to making government bigger. I think if the federal government wants to implement an exchange, we let them implement an exchange.”
Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), who also voted no on the bill, agreed that since the federal government wants the exchange, it should run it. He said he did not want the state to be held responsible for any problems with the exchange.
“I still have a lot more questions to ask,” Mr. Nesbitt said. “At the end of the day, the Obamacare, the people who voted for it, should be the ones held responsible in terms of whether or not people are able to access it. At the end of the day, it is our U.S. senators, Democratic congressmen and President Barack Obama who brought it into law, and these are the ones who should be held responsible.”
Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement the Legislature should not expect the federal government to continue funding the exchange.
“Obamacare is an unprecedented, and I have argued, unconstitutional, expansion of federal government into the lives of its citizens,” Mr. Schuette said. “It’s important to remember when dealing with issues like the health care exchange that the federal government is not a good faith partner with the states when it comes to creating and expanding new federal programs.”
Joan Fabiano, founder of the tea party group Grassroots in Michigan, said in a statement it did not support the approval of the exchange since members have not had access to the grant proposal offered by the federal government.
“In good conscience and with a fiduciary duty to the citizens of Michigan, no House representative should vote yes on something that cannot be read or accessed prior to a vote,” the group said.
Americans for Prosperity-Michigan called the money for the exchange a “bribe” from the federal government.
"Health care exchanges were created by the president's flawed health care law and serve to pile thousands of pages of rules and regulations while transferring control to health care bureaucrats in Washington,” the group said in a statement. “These bloated bureaucracies drive up the cost of insurance on hardworking families and raise taxes on businesses.”
The Michigan Business and Professional Association, and the Michigan Food and Beverage Association support the passage of the bill, and said in a statement the money will help the state fund the development of a health care purchasing exchange for individuals and small businesses as called for under the Affordable Care Act.
“This has been a long time coming, but we are pleased that Michigan will have a say in the creation of the partnership exchange as we move toward implementing health care reform,” said Jennifer Kluge, president of MBPA.
The Small Business Association of Michigan also released a statement supporting the passage of the bill.
“Whether you supported Obamacare or not – and SBAM did not – it is the law of the land, and establishing a health exchange will save state dollars and keep Michigan moving toward compliance with the new federal health care law,” said Rob Fowler, president of the association.
(Reprinted from Gongwer News Service)