Bankole: The unlikely healthcare conversion of Michigan gubernatorial candidate Schuette
Despite the shortcomings of his administration on some issues, including the Flint water crisis, one of the hallmarks of the outgoing administration of Gov. Rick Snyder, is the empathy he showed for thousands of Michiganians who needed health care.
Under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, Snyder allowed the expansion of Medicaid, when he could have simply followed the script of some southern Republican governors or of Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette, who were all vehemently opposed to the new health law.
Unlike Schuette, Snyder did not challenge the constitutionality of the health care legislation, and instead moved ahead with the Healthy Michigan initiative to cover more people.
Looking back, it made sense for Snyder to move in the direction Schuette refused to go. The governor doesn’t get enough credit for that.
After all, what governor would deny his people health care coverage simply because of disdain for the person who occupies the White House? Only a governor who cares more about politics than the well-being of people.
Snyder showed he was a pragmatist willing to work with the administration of former President Barack Obama on the ACA.
I find it interesting that Schuette, now desperately seeking to be the next Republican governor, seems to be backpedaling after he tried to lead a crusade against Obamacare. He's had plenty of opportunity in the past to revisit his position, including a tweet this year saying, “While some expanded Obamacare in MI and celebrate its 8th ‘anniversary’ today, I didn't sit back and accept it. The Affordable Care Act violated the very first principle of medicine: Do no harm. When I'm governor we will work to repeal & replace Obamacare.”
But he’s not saying that anymore. He is promising not to scrap the Medicaid program. His Damascus experience on the issue can be viewed as nothing but a man trying to be governor by any means necessary. His Democratic opponent Gretchen Whitmer, who as Senate Democratic leader worked with Snyder on Medicaid, continues to squeeze him on the issue.
“Michigan families deserved affordable, accessible healthcare that covers pre-existing conditions, lets children stay on their parents’ plan until age 26 and protects your ability to pick your own doctor,” Schuette tweeted last week.
I shook my head after reading that, because it read like a page copied from the Obamacare blueprint. After eight years of railing against the ACA and vowing to repeal and replace it, many people are going to find it very hard to believe that Schuette’s got a change of heart now.
He took the easy way out then when it was not popular to stand with a Democratic president on an issue that affects everyone regardless of party affiliation. Snyder took the difficult road of finding common ground with a Democratic administration in Washington D.C. to guarantee health care to the people of his state.
It’s almost borderline callous indifference to stretch the bounds of partisan politics at the expense of low-income families, including pregnant women and children who need Medicaid.
Schuette’s seeming flip-flop on Obamacare is one of the reasons so many people give up on politicians, whether Democrat or Republican. Because politicians more often than not take opportunistic positions to benefit themselves, not their constituents.
In fact, the Michigan Association of Health Plans, a group that advocates for quality and affordable care, noted that Healthy Michigan has been a success since Snyder added funding for it in his 2018-19 budget.
“Healthy Michigan Plan has been a major success, and is one of Gov. Rick Snyder’s most important accomplishments,” said Dominick Pallone, the group’s director.
“We thank the governor for his commitment to this important component of Michigan’s overall health care system, which assures health care to many who would be otherwise unable to afford it.”
And despite what the critics would want you to believe, Pallone said, “The plan helps hold down medical costs for the state as a whole by reducing uncompensated care often delivered in high-cost ways, such as emergency rooms, and by allowing delivery of preventative care, such as diabetes treatments that help patients avoid amputations. Those savings reduce overall health care costs, with the savings passed on to those covered by employers and in the individual market.”
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