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 March 26, 2015 17:18 GMT

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, evidence that strong hiring should continue despite signs of slower economic growth at the start of 2015.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000. The decrease suggests that a recent slowdown in manufacturing, housing starts and retail sales have not trickled into the job market, a possible indication that economic growth will rebound after a harsh winter.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, tumbled 7,750 to 297,000. Over the past 12 months, the average has dipped roughly 7 percent.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The relatively low average shows that employers are holding onto workers and may increase hiring. Applications below 300,000 are generally consistent with solid monthly job gains.

MORTGAGE RATES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week for a second straight week, edging closer to historically low levels at the start of the spring home-buying season.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the national average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.69 percent from 3.78 percent last week.

The average rate for a 15-year mortgage, popular with homeowners who refinance, eased to 2.97 percent from 3.06 percent last week.

A year ago, the average 30-year mortgage stood at 4.40 percent and the 15-year mortgage at 3.42 percent. Mortgage rates have remained low even though the Federal Reserve in October ended its monthly bond purchases, designed to hold down long-term rates.

FRANCE-PLANE CRASH-LUFTHANSA

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) -- The chief executive of Lufthansa says he is "stunned" by a French prosecutor's conclusion that the co-pilot of a Germanwings plane intentionally caused Tuesday's crash which killed 150 people.

Germanwings is Lufthansa's budget-price subsidiary.

Chief executive Carsten Spohr told a news conference in Cologne, Germany, that the airline choses its staff "very carefully" and has no indication of why co-pilot Andreas Lubitz would have crashed the plane. Spohr says pilots undergo yearly medical examination but that doesn't include psychological tests.

Germany's interior minister says that there are no indications the German co-pilot had "any kind of terrorist background." He says German authorities checked intelligence and police databases on the day of the crash, and Lufthansa told them that regular security checks also turned up nothing untoward on the co-pilot.

French prosecutors say Lubitz locked the pilot out of the cockpit. The Airbus A320 is designed with safeguards to allow emergency entry if a pilot inside is unresponsive. But the override code that is known to the crew does not go into effect -- and indeed goes into a lockdown -- if the person inside the cockpit specifically denies entry.

NORWEGIAN AIR-COCKPIT RULES

HELSINKI (AP) -- Europe's third largest budget airline, Norwegian Air Shuttle, says it plans to adopt new rules requiring two crew members to always be present in the cockpit of a flying aircraft.

A Norwegian spokeswoman says the new rules will be adopted "as soon as possible" on all commercial flights globally. She says the decision was taken after details emerged that the co-pilot of the Germanwings Flight 9525 that crashed in France on Tuesday had apparently locked himself in the cockpit.

She says the airline's security department had been thinking about the measure "for a while, and today decided on it."

Other airlines, including Finnish national carrier Finnair, stipulate that there must always be two crew members in the cockpit of a flying aircraft.

CONGRESS-MEDICARE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House has voted in unusual bipartisan unity to approve a $214 billion measure permanently blocking cuts in physicians' Medicare payments.

The 392-37 vote moved Congress a step closer to resolving a problem that has plagued lawmakers for years.

The package bore wins for both parties. Republicans won a long-term strengthening of Medicare's finances with cost increases for some high-income recipients. Democrats claimed victories with added money for health programs for children and poor families.

The measure would replace a 1997 law that has repeatedly threatened cuts in physicians' Medicare reimbursements. Doctors have warned that those threats could force them to stop treating the program's elderly patients.

The bill's Senate fate is unclear but improving. Democrats' complaints about its abortion curbs and other provisions have been softening.

GAS DRILLING-PUBLIC LANDS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House have found something in common. Many have issues with the Obama administration's new regulations requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

Republicans say the new regulations, announced last week, will delay new drilling projects and take marginal lands out of production.

Democratic lawmakers say the regulations are so mild that they won't change current operating standards.

The lawmakers' complaints were aired Thursday during a House subcommittee hearing called to review the Bureau of Land Management's budget for the coming fiscal year.

Bureau Director Neil Kornze (KORN'-zee) says fracking is taking place in 32 states, and the new regulations were aimed primarily at those states with limited or no regulation of the practice.

GREECE-BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek bank deposits dropped by more than 7.5 billion euros ($8.2 billion) in February, ramping up pressure on the country's teetering financial system as its government scrambles to reach a deal with creditors.

The central bank of Greece Thursday said private and business deposits dropped to 140.5 billion euros ($154.2 billion) by the end of February.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government has promised to submit a list of detailed reforms to bailout creditors by early next week at the latest. It has also said it would scrap any reforms that hurt economic growth.

Lenders need to approve the changes before releasing the remaining bailout funds that Greece needs to keep up with debt repayments before the summer.

SEAFOOD FROM SLAVES-REACTION

BANGKOK (AP) -- Lawmakers in Thailand have approved a measure creating tougher penalties for violating the country's laws against human trafficking.

The legislation had been under debate for several weeks. But its passage comes in the wake of an Associated Press investigation published this week. It found that fish caught by slaves has entered the supply chains of major supermarkets, restaurants and even pet stores in the United States. Seafood that was caught by hundreds of men trapped on a remote Indonesian island was tracked to exporters in Thailand who sell to America.

Thailand's deputy prime minister is denying that there are any slaves working on fishing boats carrying flags of Thailand. Instead, he says the problems are taking place in Indonesia.

But the U.S. State Department blacklisted Thailand last year for failing to meet minimum standards in fighting human trafficking.

U.S. retailers and the National Fisheries Institute have written to the ambassadors from Thailand and Indonesia, demanding to know what will be done to free the slaves described in AP's coverage. They say they've asked the government of Thailand in the past to address the issue of forced labor -- but didn't have any specific allegations until now.

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