Mich. Senate prepares to vote on Medicaid expansion

Updated: Thursday, August 22, 2013
Mich. Senate prepares to vote on Medicaid expansion story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Five days from now--next Tuesday--the Michigan Senate will vote on expanding Medicaid to offer health insurance to some 470,000 state residents--most of them from working families who hover just above the poverty line.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says anything but a 'yes' vote means the people we've elected to office are more concerned with petty politics than the health and welfare of the people they represent.

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There are lots of people who don't like Obamacare. I get it. Its confusing. Its got thousands of pages that few will ever read or fully understand. It focuses on how we're going to pay instead of why everything costs so much. And as a result many of us worry about where all the money is going to come from.

But there are nearly a half-million well-intentioned people in our state who don't have health care. Usually because their employers don't offer it, and always because they can't afford it on their own.

As a result, when they get sick they wind up going to absurdly expensive hospital emergency rooms for medical care. Think about it. A single bill from a single visit to an ER is likely to be more than a month's rent.

They are bills that are most likely not going to be paid.

Why not?

Because in this country we offer the most expensive health care in the world and those individuals and families simply can't afford to pay them.  If they aren't part of an insurance plan, in a classic of upside-down logic, they usually get charged even more.

And it isn't as though all these costs just magically disappear. In one way or another, they do get paid.

But they get paid by businesses, taxpayers, and people who do have health care. The same people who see their premiums rise by double digits each and every year.

Hospitals, who provide just short of a billion dollars worth of indigent health care a year,  absorb some of it, but do their best also to pass it on to paying customers.

And did I mention that roughly 65 percent of all bankruptcies in this country are healthcare related?

So along comes the federal government to say to states, 'Tell you what...if you expand your Medicaid coverage to include those who live just above the poverty line (the ones we're talking about here) we'll pick up the cost—all of it—for the next four years. After that we'll pick up 90 percent of it.

Sounds like a no-brainer.

But here's the rub. It's part of the Affordable Care Act—the dreaded Obamacare. And in a number of states where there are Republican-dominated governments, Michigan among them, to accept medicaid expansion is to somehow endorse and give victory to President Obama himself.

A political position that does little for the 15,000 in kalamazoo county who pray they don't get sick.

It's a position that has outraged Governor Snyder—who to his credit has been out campaigning for it.

He says, matter-of-factly, whether you like Obamacare or not, it is the law of the land, and that with each day that goes by, Michigan is losing money.

His colleague,  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who faced the same problem, is one of the few Republican Governors in the country who successfully lobbied for extended medicare.

"Let me be clear," he said. "I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America.
 
I fought against it and believe in the long run  it will not achieve what it promises. However—it is the law of the land.
 
I will make all my judgments as Governor based on what is best for New Jersey."

Gov. Snyder is essentially making the same argument. And its time for the Senate to put away its petty ideological differences, listen to what he's saying,  and get on board.

Five more days.

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

Business News

Last Update on August 22, 2014 17:58 GMT

YELLEN

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says the Great Recession complicated the Fed's ability to assess the U.S. job market and made it harder to determine when to adjust interest rates.

Yellen's remarks to an annual Fed conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, offer no signal that she's altered her view that the economy still needs Fed support from ultra-low interest rates. The timing of a Fed rate increase remains unclear.

She notes that while the unemployment rate has steadily declined, other gauges of the job market are harder to assess and may reflect continued weakness. These include high levels of people who have been unemployed for more than six months, many people working part time who would like full-time jobs and weak pay growth.

OBAMA-CONTRACEPTION

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration will offer a new accommodation to religious nonprofits that object to covering birth control for their employees. The measure allows those groups to notify the government, rather than their insurance company, that birth control violates their religious beliefs.

The government is also extending an existing accommodation to some for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby that's currently available only to nonprofits. That accommodation requires groups to sign a form transferring responsibility for paying for birth control to their insurers or third-party administrators.

The dual decisions embrace suggestions included in recent Supreme Court rulings. But they're unlikely to go far enough to satisfy religious groups. That's because they would still make the groups complicit in a system that provides birth control through their organizations' health plans.

FITNESS DATA

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

San Francisco-based Fitbit said Friday that it has clarified its privacy policy to make it clear the company doesn't share information about its users.

Schumer raised concerns about the company's privacy policy earlier this month and called for federal rules to allow consumers to protect their data.

But the company said Friday that it's never sold private data and updated its online privacy policy to make that clear.

Schumer said Friday he hopes other manufacturers of wearable devices adopt similarly transparent rules.

Many Americans wear fitness bracelets and monitors or use mobile apps to monitor their activity.

MCDONALD'S-PRESIDENT

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's has named a new president for its flagship U.S. division, marking the second change in less than two years.

The world's biggest hamburger chain says former McDonald's executive Mike Andres will replace Jeff Stratton, who is retiring, effective Oct. 15.

Stratton, 58, took over in late 2012 and replaced Jan Fields. That shakeup was made after McDonald's Corp. reported its first monthly sales drop in nearly a decade. Sales in the U.S. have remained weak ever since, with the company facing intensifying competition and changing eating habits.

McDonald's has said it's working on fixing basics, such as the speed of service and order accuracy.

Andres, 56, will report directly to CEO Don Thompson. Andres was most recently CEO of Logan's Roadhouse Inc.

DEERE-LAYOFFS

MOLINE, Ill. (AP) -- Agricultural equipment maker Deere is laying off about 460 employees indefinitely from an Iowa tractor factory as it continues to adjust to market demand.

The Moline, Illinois, company said Friday the latest round of layoffs will be effective October 20. Deere said last week that it would lay off more than 600 employees at four Midwest factories that make harvesting and other agricultural equipment due to slumping demand.

Deere & Co. is the world's biggest farm equipment supplier and employs about 67,000 people globally.

It said earlier this month that it planned to reduce agricultural equipment production for the remainder of the year.

Company shares are down 63 cents to $85.58 in early trading.

KRAFT-KEURIG

NEW YORK (AP) -- Keurig Green Mountain says it struck a deal to make Kraft's branded coffees, such as Maxwell House and Gevalia, for its single-serve brewing systems in the U.S.

The companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

Keurig, based in Waterbury, Vermont, makes at-home brewing machines that let people make cups of coffee one serving at a time. The company is also working on a machine that would let people make cold, carbonated drinks at home, and has partnered with Coca-Cola to let people make various Coke drinks at home.

Kraft had also announced a deal to distribute packaged McDonald's coffee to supermarkets and other retailers. That deal will mean people will also be able to make McCafe drinks with Keurig machines.

Shares of Keurig rose 9 percent to $127.79.

DYNEGY-ACQUISITION

Dynegy to spend $6.25B on power plant acquisitions

Dynegy plans to spend more than $6 billion to buy several coal and gas power generation plants from Duke Energy and Energy Capital Partners.

The Houston company says the deal will boost its presence in the Midwest and New England. Dynegy produces power that it sells through wholesale markets.

The company plans to spend $2.8 billion for Duke's assets and $3.45 billion for those of Energy Capital Partners, or ECP. It says the deal will add about 12,500 megawatts of coal and gas generation. Dynegy also expects the acquisitions to complement its existing business and add fuel diversification.

Dynegy Inc. says both deals should close by the end of next year's first quarter.

Shares of Dynegy are climbing in premarket trading.

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