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Health care advocates urge quick creation of insurance exchange


A health care advocacy group says it’s in Michigan’s best interest to create a health insurance exchange group right away.

Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network Executive Director Marjorie Mitchell (MICHUHCAN) says lawmakers should not wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

A decision is expected this summer.

"We don't have to agree on everything, but we do need to solve the problems of our people," she says. "Seventeen percent of our gross national product (spent on health care) and  rising is not a sustainable thing."

Mitchell says 1.3 million people in Michigan don’t have health insurance and another 600,000 are underinsured.

If Michigan does not create its own health insurance exchange by January 1, 2013, the federal government could step in to run the program for the state.

"We will be way behind in being prepared to do what needs to be done," Mitchell cautions.

Gov. Snyder is also urging lawmakers to establish the exchange, but is facing resistance from Republicans.

Mitchell says 50 percent of bankruptcies in the U.S. result from people who are unable to pay their medical bills. She says many people are forced to turn to emergency rooms when their health deteriorates -- a much more expensive option.

"The Affordable Care Act won't cover everyone, but they will pick up many hundreds of thousands of people in Michigan," she says.

The law often derisively referred to as "Obamacare" by many Republicans has eliminated the donut-hole in prescription coverage for seniors and covers preventive health services without co-payments. It has also allowed parents to provide coverage to their children until they reach age 26.

"We have a responsibility to each other, the same as we do for our roads," Mitchell says. "I don't have children, but I pay for education. I'm proud to pay for other children's education, because that's the future of our country.

Mitchell says with the expansion of Medicaid in 2014, along with subsidies and a health care exchange, Michigan will become more competitive in the marketplace because it will have healthier students and workers.

*Correction - An earlier version of this story stated that the federal government will set up a health care exchange in Michigan if the state does not create one by June. The deadline for state participation in a health care exchange is January 1, 2013. The government could allow more time for an exchange to be established if the state has made progress toward an exchange. More information can be found at HealthCare.gov. The copy has been corrected above.