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Michigan Legislature Sends Medicaid Expansion Bill to Governor

September 3, 2013 -- The Michigan legislature gave final approval last week to a bill that would expand Medicaid in the state, starting in the spring.

Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder had been pressuring his GOP colleagues to accept a broadening of the Medicaid program, as allowed under the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152). The House passed the plan in June, but the Senate took longer to decide the issue. On Aug. 27, the Michigan Senate voted 20-18 to approve its version of the plan. The House gave its final approval with a 75–32 vote.

The version that goes to Snyder's desk requires the measure to take effect 90 days after the final day of the legislative session, which is expected to end sometime in December. That timing is expected to delay the expansion in Michigan until at least late March, rather than in January, which is when the federal law allows the benefits to become available.

Framers of the health law had expected the expansion of Medicaid to be routine. But when the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the overhaul last year, the justices said that states that chose not to expand their Medicaid programs wouldn't lose the rest of their federal reimbursement for that health program for the poor. As a result, so far only about half the states have decided to expand the program. The federal expansion means that people with annual incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate will be able to enroll.

A spokesman for Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, a Republican, said that the chamber is working to process the bill and send it to Snyder for his signature. It is unclear whether Snyder will sign it before or soon after he returns from a trip to Asia that he will start on this week.

National advocates for expansion immediately reacted positively to the legislature's vote.

"The Michigan legislature's decision to accept federal funding to broaden access to health coverage through Medicaid is an example of bold leadership in the fight against cancer," said Chris Hansen, the president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "The decision will give more than 400,000 currently uninsured Michiganders access to the care they need to help prevent, treat and survive cancer—a disease that claims the lives of more than 20,500 people in the state annually. Once Governor Synder signs the bill into law, thousands of Michigan families will have the security of knowing they will have access to mammograms, colonoscopies and other lifesaving cancer screenings and treatments they cannot currently afford."

The group had found in a survey that 63 percent of registered voters in Michigan support the expansion when asked if they want the state to take federal dollars to cover more people. The poll had been done by a bipartisan pair of polling firms, Lake Research Partners and GS Strategy Group.

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