Discussing 'a $600 million dessert'

Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013
Discussing
KALAMZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - In the days after the State Senate narrowly extended Medicaid coverage to nearly a half-million Michigan residents, it became clear that Senators want poverty-stricken people to help pay for their own health care.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says that by turning down more than a half-billion dollars in Obamacare reimbursements over the first quarter of next year, and then asking poor people to help make up the difference, paints a picture of a remarkably insensitive group of politicians.

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The Michigan Senate Minority Leader, Gretchen Whitmer, explained her Republican colleagues' opposition to medicaid expansion, which is a part of the affordable care act, this way:

"It's because (expansion) is associated with Obamacare and because the tea party in Michigan is the tail that's wagging the dog in this chamber."

And I think she's right.

There is no other logic to the Senate, 26 of whom are Republicans, and 12 are Democrats, in delaying enrollment from January 1st to April 1st.

By doing so they knew full well that they were turning their backs on $7 million a day in federal money to be used for Medicaid.

That's a total of more than $600 million. Six-hundred-million that the state loses.

That's not a number pulled out of the air by some hand-wringing alarmist. It comes from Jim Haveman, the Director of this state's Department of Community Health.

In fact, yesterday he said his estimate may, in fact, be too low.

Republican response? Well, we probably won't get that many enrolled right away, so that figure may be too high.

So what's their best guess? They haven't got one.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, who to his credit, helped form the tiny coalition to get the matter through the Senate last week, doesn't even want to talk about it.

"It's like we had this really big dinner," he said. "We got the dinner done and people are going to ask for dessert.
 
“We're going to skip the dessert on this one. We're done. The legislature in total has gone through enough with this issue."

Dessert? He thinks $600 million is dessert? Sounds more like a main course of steak, potatoes, and choice of vegetable for a half-million people to me.

And of course during that same 90 day period state hospitals will continue offering what will amount to roughly a quarter of a billion dollars in expensive emergency room care to poor people.

Much of the cost of that gets picked up by the insured who pay higher premiums, and some of it gets picked up by federal reimbursement. But reimbursements will be reduced as of January 1, because that's ostensibly when people start signing up for Obamacare.

Look, you don't have to be a fan of Obamacare to take the money. Obamacare—even though it's the law of the land—may not work.

But the money is there for the taking. It's just smart government.

Phil Power, a former University of Michigan Regent, now a writer for Bridge Magazine, said yesterday he sometimes wonders if Republican lawmakers in Lansing would even vote against something called "Obamataxcut." Good point.

And then the icing on the cake. The Senate wants poor people, not just the new ones, the ones just above the poverty line, but all of them, to pay 5 percent of their income in copay fees.

So in addition to rent, food, transportation, clothing, and other things they can't afford, they have to fork over 5 percent in copay fees.

After four years it'll go up to 7 percent. Nobody knows how it'll get collected.

But its an intimidating little add-on that'll probably keep any number of qualified people from breaking the door down to enroll.

And those fees, all by themselves, could actually block the Medicaid expansion itself. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Expansion has to approve Michigan's legislation.

And an expert said yesterday she thought the CMS would be taking a close look at Michigan's bill before giving it an okay.

Forget dessert. We may lose the whole enchilada.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on January 26, 2015 18:16 GMT

GREECE-ELECTION

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Radical left leader Alexis Tsipras has been sworn in as Greece's new prime minister, becoming the youngest man to hold the post in 150 years.

Tsipras' anti-bailout Syriza party gained the backing needed to form a government by creating an alliance with a small right-wing nationalist party.

Syriza won 36.3 percent of the vote in Sunday's early general elections but fell two seats short of the necessary majority in the 300-seat parliament to form a government on its own. The Independent Greeks party took 4.7 percent of the votes. The two ideologically opposed parties share only their opposition to the bailout.

The surprise alliance boosted stock markets across Europe that had fallen on news of the uncertain election results and fear of a second election. Stocks had fallen as much as 4 percent in Athens on Monday morning, before recovering.

MEDICARE PAYMENT OVERHAUL

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is unveiling what it calls a historic shift in the way Medicare pays hospitals and doctors. The goal is to reward quality care and not just the sheer volume of services like imaging scans.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell made the announcement today, before a broad cross-section of health care industry representatives including insurers, hospitals and doctors, as well as employers, who finance coverage for most workers and their families.

Building on experiments under the president's health care law, Burwell set a goal of tying 50 percent of payments under traditional Medicare to new models of care by the end of 2018.

That can include so-called accountable care organizations, which coordinate care to help keep patients out of the hospital.

IBM JOB CUTS

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- IBM is pooh-poohing a published report that the giant technology company is planning a big reorganization and massive job cuts affecting more than 100,000 people.

The company disclosed plans for some layoffs last week, but it says in a statement that they affect "several thousand people," or "a small fraction of what's been reported."

That's in contrast with a report that appeared last week on the website of Forbes magazine, which predicted as many as one in four IBM employees might lose their jobs in a massive shake-up called "Project Chrome." IBM issued another disappointing earnings report last week that showed fourth-quarter revenue and net income had fallen.

The company says some workers will leave as IBM "rebalances" to make room for hiring about 15,000 workers with new skills.

MATTEL-CEO RESIGNATION

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Toy maker Mattel says Bryan Stockton has resigned after about three years of leading the struggling maker of Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars.

The El Segundo, California, company also is reporting preliminary four-quarter earnings and revenue that missed Wall Street expectations, and its stock is sliding.

The company says longtime board member Christopher A. Sinclair will replace Stockton as chairman and interim CEO. Stockton because CEO in January 2012 and then was named chairman a year later.

Mattel Inc. says it earned 44 cents per share in the fourth quarter, or 52 cents per share, not counting hits from integration costs and taxes. Revenue fell 6 percent to $1.99 billion.

Analysts were expecting 91 cents per share on $2.14 billion in revenue.

MEADWESTVACO-ROCK-TENN

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Rock-Tenn and MeadWestvaco are joining to form a $16 billion packaging company.

As part of the deal, MeadWestvaco Corp. stockholders will receive 0.78 shares of the combined company for each share they own. Rock-Tenn shareholders will be allowed to choose either 1 share of the combined company or a specific cash amount for each RockTenn share held.

Rock-Tenn CEO Steven Voorhees will be the CEO of the new company.

The boards of both companies approved the deal, which still needs approval from shareholders.

Within three years, the deal is expected to result in annual cost savings of $300 million, though officials did not say if the savings would include job cuts at any of its locations around the world.

The tie-up is expected to close in the second quarter.

AT&T-NEXTEL MEXICO

AT&T buying Nextel Mexico from NII Holdings

DALLAS (AP) -- AT&T is buying Nextel Mexico from NII Holdings for about $1.88 billion, minus the company's debt.

The deal will give AT&T Inc. companies that operate under the name Nextel Mexico and hold all of the wireless properties in Mexico held by NII Holdings Inc. That includes spectrum licenses, network assets, retail stores and about 3 million subscribers. Nextel Mexico's network covers approximately 76 million people.

The acquisition is subject to a bankruptcy auction and approvals by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, which is currently overseeing the restructuring of NII Holdings. The company, based in Reston, Virginia, sought bankruptcy protection in September.

The deal is also subject to regulatory approval by Mexico's telecom regulator Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones.

The sale is expected to close in mid-2015.

SUPREME COURT-RETIREE HEALTH CARE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A unanimous Supreme Court is ordering lower courts to take a new look at a dispute over a chemical company's efforts to cut costs in its health plan for retired workers.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the court's opinion that threw out a judgment in favor of the retirees of the Point Pleasant Polyester Plant in Apple Grove, West Virginia. M&G Polymers USA LLC is the current owner of the facility.

Lower courts ruled that some retirees had been promised lifetime, cost-free health benefits.

The Supreme Court did not decide whether the courts came to the right conclusion, only that they employed faulty legal reasoning in interpreting a 15-year-old agreement dealing with retiree pensions and other benefits.

The case is M&G Polymers USA LLC v. Tackett, 13-1010.

WHITE HOUSE-LOCKDOWN

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Secret Service says a small drone flying at low altitude crashed into the White House complex before dawn while the president was in India.

An investigation is underway to determine its origin and identify suspects and their motive.

Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary says the device was a quadcopter and was about 2 feet in diameter. A quadcopter is an unmanned aircraft that is lifted by four propellers.

Leary says the quadcopter was flying at a very low altitude before it crashed on the southeast side of the executive mansion around 3:08 a.m. Monday.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were in New Delhi and not at the White House.

Leary says in a statement that the White House complex was immediately locked down until the device was examined and cleared.

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