Snyder vouching for Medicaid expansion plan in D.C.

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to vouch for the state’s Healthy Michigan plan Thursday in Washington D.C., where he’ll join a Senate committee roundtable discussion on the future of the larger Medicaid health care program for low-income and other vulnerable residents.

The Republican governor is a vocal proponent of Michigan’s unique form of expanded Medicaid eligibility funded through the Affordable Care Act, a federal law that President-elect Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress have promised to repeal and replace.

Republicans on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee requested input last month in a letter to the Republican Governors Association. Snyder will participate in that discussion, his office confirmed, and may talk about Medicaid with other officials during his trip to the nation’s capital.

“It is likely there will be ongoing conversations about Healthy Michigan while the governor is in D.C.,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton told The Detroit News. “He will use the opportunity while he is there to continue sharing the successes of our program.”

Snyder did not endorse Trump in the general election but is expected to stay in town for Friday’s inauguration as the GOP New York businessman is officially sworn in as president.

In their letter to Republican governors, chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and other GOP committee members said the Medicaid program warranted reforms before eligibility was expanded under Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

It “was plagued by quality issues, states were stymied in their attempts to utilize innovative solutions to improve patient care, and both federal and state Medicaid spending was growing at unprecedented and unsustainable levels,” they wrote.

“As Republicans in Washington chart the course to repeal and replace Obamacare, hearing from our governors who are on the ground dealing with these issues firsthand is paramount,” Hatch said in a Wednesday statement. “With this roundtable, I look forward to a productive conversation on the future of the Medicaid program and how it can be reformed to provide more efficient and cost-effective care to patients and taxpayers.”

Trump has said he would like to turn Medicaid into a block grant program, which could effectively cap future spending growth and give states more flexibility to administer the program.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, proposed a per-capita allotment in his “Better Way” agenda, suggesting the federal government could initially maintain current funding levels for states like Michigan that expanded eligibility but eventually require traditional matching rates, eliminating a key expansion incentive.

Senate Republicans who scheduled Thursday’s roundtable meeting told governors they’re seeking perspectives on various issues, including ways to balance the needs of enrollees who received Medicaid through the ACA but also ensure the sustainability of the program.

Snyder touted the Healthy Michigan plan Tuesday night in his seventh annual State of the State address, suggesting it could be a model for the nation. Nearly 640,000 residents are currently enrolled.

The plan includes unique requirements for expansion-eligible recipients who earn between 100 and 133 percent of the poverty level, including Health Savings Account contributions and co-pays that can be reduced through healthy behaviors.

“I look forward to working with my federal partners to talk about the value of this program, how it may even be enhanced as we go through these difficult and challenging questions,” Snyder said in his speech.

“We look forward to a re-imagining of health care for all Michiganders and our entire country, with Michigan being a leader in that dialogue.”

Staff writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.