LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday urged lawmakers to work with him to set up an online site where individuals and small businesses can comparison shop for private health insurance now that the U.S. Supreme Court has largely upheld President Barack Obama’s federal health care law.
The Republican governor said in a statement that he didn’t agree with everything in the law, which he says doesn’t focus enough on promoting wellness and restraining health care costs. But he wants to work quickly to set up Michigan’s online marketplace so the state “can make decisions regarding what will be covered as opposed toWashington, D.C., making those decisions for us.”
Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger said he would work with Snyder’s administration to set up a state-run health insurance exchange, though he said he was “mad and disappointed” with the ruling.
“Having the state establish a health care exchange is not something we wish to do, but we cannot stand idly by and hand over our citizens’ health care to an overreaching federal bureaucracy,” the Marshall lawmaker said.
Although the GOP-led Senate passed a measure allowing the exchange to be created, Republicans who control the House refused to let state officials use $9.8 million in federal planning dollars until after the court ruled. The House could approve spending the money when lawmakers return to session for one day on July 19.
At least one conservative group, Americans For Prosperity-Michigan, vowed to fight the exchange. It said it would send campaign literature into more than 20 House districts and three Senate districts asking if the lawmakers who hold those seats — many of them Republicans — are “Obamacare collaborators” who approve spending money to set up an exchange.
Michigan has been planning for a state exchange as much as possible with $1 million from a federal grant. But it also has been talking to federal officials about setting up a federal exchange where the state handles just some of the responsibilities, such as customer service, because it’s running out of time to create its own exchange. More than half a million uninsured Michigan residents are expected to buy private insurance through the exchange once it’s operational in 2014.
One business owner who’s looking forward to using the exchange is Polly Freer, who owns Simply Bookkeeping in Kalamazoo. She’s been able to get “bare bones” health insurance to cover catastrophic care for her family, but she worries the premiums will become too high for her to pay, even with a $5,000 deductible.
“The ability to get into exchanges, hopefully have better health care for less money, is huge,” Freer said. With the law upheld, “I’m also feeling like we’re not just one medical incident away from complete disaster.”
The court’s decision brought both relief and anger in Michigan, where nearly 1.3 million residents, or about 13 percent of the state’s population, are uninsured.
Sharon Donovan said she’ll now likely be able to buy health insurance. The 53-year-old Ann Arbor artist is a self-employed jewelry maker and hasn’t been able to afford health insurance for the past 32 years. She’s now among millions of moderate-income Americans eligible for a government subsidy to help them buy health insurance under the law.
“I don’t mind paying for my medical expenses,” said Donovan, who spent a year paying off dental bills after she had five crowns and two root canals done two years ago. “I just think if I have a dire medical emergency, I shouldn’t have to lose my house.”
Ronald Katz of Huntington Woods says he’s pleased his 21-year-old son also will be able to remain on his health insurance until he’s 26.
“That’s important to me, too, because he’s still in college, and who knows what’s going to happen when he graduates,” said Katz, who lives in a state with an 8.5 percent jobless rate. He called the provision “a definite benefit.”
Henry Ford Health System CEO Nancy Schlichting said the ruling was good news for the Detroit-based hospital, which last year had to provide twice as much uncompensated care to the uninsured — $210 million — as it did eight years ago.
“We’re thrilled for the nearly 500,000 uninsured people in Michigan who will now have access to affordable health care, many for the first time, which in turn will bring much needed economic relief to Henry Ford and other health care providers that have been coping for years with the growing cost of uncompensated care,” Schlichting said in a release.
State officials said around half a million low-income residents are expected to qualify for health insurance through Medicaid, with the federal government picking up all the additional cost through 2016. The federal match then will gradually drop to 90 percent.
Others blasted the ruling. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, one of more than two dozen state attorneys general who opposed the law, said he was “extremely concerned ... about the impact of this decision on the personal liberties and basic constitutional rights of Americans.”
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce said it was “a sad day for job providers and families who ... strenuously oppose the government interference” in health insurance.
“While we were confident that the Supreme Court would find this type of government overreach unacceptable, we remain hopeful that the new Congress will work to repeal and replace the law with measures to control costs and improve quality,” Chamber Senior Vice President Jim Holcomb said in a statement.
Michigan’s congressional delegation split along party lines, with Democrats such as Rep. Sander Levin of Royal Oak applauding the decision while Republicans such as Rep. Dave Camp of Midland objecting to it.
Sixty-year-old retiree Mark Derrick of Livonia said he’s afraid the law might cause some companies to cut back on the health care coverage they offer employees.
“It’s great for the folks that don’t have” health insurance, he said of the ruling. “If you do have it, is it going to make that subpar now?”