Lansing— Republicans who control the Michigan Senate on Tuesday rejected a Democratic proposal to end the 2013 legislative session three months early to allow the Medicaid expansion law to take effect Jan. 1.
After the federal government shut down Tuesday because Congress failed overnight to pass a new budget, state Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer proposed shutting down Michigan’s legislative session 90 days early.
Whitmer billed it as a “very serious solution” to the GOP majority’s failure to give the Medicaid law immediate effect in August, delaying health insurance enrollment for about 320,000 low-income Michiganians until April 1.
Republicans were deeply divided on expanding Medicaid because it’s a key component of President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law. The law is at the epicenter of the federal government’s partial closing as the congressional GOP seeks to delay implementation of the law.
By not making the Medicaid law effective immediately after Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill last month, implementation is delayed until 90 days after the legislative session ends, which is usually at the end of the year. The law also requires waivers from the Obama administration before it can go into effect.
While thankful the Medicaid expansion will eventually be implemented, Democrats argue the 90-day delay is unnecessary and will ultimately cost the state $7 million a day, or $630 million, in lost federal funding for not expanding the Medicaid rolls on Jan. 1.
“The casualties of your civil war are people,” Whitmer said on the Senate floor. “... Yes, it’s an extremely sad commentary when the best solution is for us to stop working.”
Republicans dismissed Whitmer’s proposal as political posturing on the day when Obama’s health insurance marketplaces went live at healthcare.gov. Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said poor residents have the option of purchasing private health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges for the first three months of 2014.
“There’s no reason to shut down today,” said Jones, who voted against Medicaid expansion. “... Don’t we want able-bodied people to pay a little bit into their health care? Even President Obama said it will cost less than a cellphone bill.”
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said he wants to wrap up the legislative session by Dec. 12, meaning the Medicaid expansion could take effect in mid-March.
Senate Floor Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said Whitmer’s proposal was inconsistent with her desire to approve funding for implementation of Common Core standards and reach a resolution on increasing funding for road repairs.
“Has she already given up on this effort?” Meekhof said. “She must have if she wants to quit today and go home for the rest of the year.”
Whitmer, of East Lansing, said ending the session early wouldn’t necessarily mean lawmakers would have to go home. Snyder could legally call them back for a special session.