Michigan Medicaid expansion

Updated: Thursday, June 27 2013, 06:12 PM EDT
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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It's been a full week now, since Republicans in the Michigan Senate went off on their summer vacation without taking a vote on whether to offer medical insurance to poverty-stricken adults.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says the decision smacks of political cowardice by politicians who'd rather not risk offending conservative voters.

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Come with me for a moment to a place where there are somewhere between 300 and 500-thousand who don't have health insurance. It's too expensive. They don't have jobs that offer it.

It's a place where these people, nonetheless, have the audacity to occasionally get sick and need treatment.

They don't have family doctors, so they flood emergency rooms where they can't be denied care.

They do get bills, which are usually way higher than they'd be if they were insured. But almost always, they can't afford to pay them.

Taken a look at a hospital bill lately? $5,000 to $10,000 for an overnight stay? It's pretty hard to come up with that kind of cash when you take in less than $12,000 a year as a single person, or less than $23,000 with a family of four. That's where we've set the lines on poverty.

I can hear some of you saying, right now, "Well, then, why don't just go out and get better jobs?"  Of course. Why don't they? Why haven't they thought of that?

Yes—why don't they quit their minimum-wage part-time jobs and become CEO's where they can earn 500 to a thousand times more than they do now. Why don't pigs fly?

The point is, they get hospital bills and mostly don't pay them because they can't. And eventually many of them will join that sad and lonely bankruptcy club where 65 percent of its members got there because of the high cost of health care.

But hospitals do eventually  find the money. They raise their rates to those who are insured—that's us—and our insurance rates keep climbing a ladder that has no top.

And that brings us to the Senate's decision last week to just kick it down the road.

If they had instead passed it—and apparently they had enough votes to do that—it would have taken us on a road to Medicaid expansion and federal Obamacare dollars and doctors offices instead of emergency rooms.

Obamacare would insure those who qualify for three years—and pay the entire cost during that period. And then 90 percent of the cost after that. Theoretically, Michigan would be on the road to saving billions of dollars.

The idea, of course, is to get people to start taking ownership of their own good health with preventative care instead of reactive care.

So the states who join the club start getting money back. Even Arizona saw it as a prudent thing to do. Sort of an economics 101 thing.

But not us. Senate leader Randy Richardville of Monroe could see that the measure might actually pass. So he told everyone to take a vacation instead of a vote.

Democratic Senator Gretchen Whitmer was pretty matter-of-fact about it: "Tea party and other obstructionists," she said, "began threatening Republican lawmakers if they allowed the bill to be voted on."

So, rather than standing tall and facing down the enemy—and doing something requiring a degree of courage—Senate Republicans took a vacation instead.

Reelection, it turns out, is more important to them than doing the right thing.

From this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.
Michigan Medicaid expansion
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