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No vote on Medicaid expansion as supporters and opponents prod state Senate

Rick Pluta

Update 3:17 p.m.

The Michigan Senate met today in a chamber stripped of desks and carpet. The state Capitol is being refurbished during the Legislature’s summer recess.

Despite the construction, Senate Republican leaders decided to hold a brief session today which included a meeting to discuss Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

In the end, the Senate adjourned for two weeks without voting on expanding Medicaid coverage to almost half a million uninsured people in Michigan.

The event generated some clamor, speech-making, and drew the “Dean of Congress.”

State Senate leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) says he wants a workgroup to study the issue further.

“I think it’s my job to make sure that if and when a vote is held it’s something that is the best product that we can put forward. This is a chance for Michigan to do well by doing good,” said Richardville.

Congressman John Dingell was one of those who showed up to press for state Senate action on the expansion, which is the central tenet of the national health care law he championed.

Felicia Kieme was one of the demonstrators who showed up at the state Capitol to urge a vote on the expansion. She is a surgery nurse at the University of Michigan Hospitals.

“I’ve seen over the last couple of years, especially, a huge increase in the surgeries we have to do because people did not have the opportunity to see a physician regularly. So what they end of doing, instead of seeing a physician regularly and having a problem taken care of, they end up coming to the emergency room for their first-time visit,” said Kieme.

Some Republicans say they think there are better alternatives than expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law.

State Senator Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) is a tea party Republican who opposes the expansion.

He says there are better solutions to getting more people health care.

“I’m actually pushing free market solutions, free market alternatives to what’s being proposed. Medicaid is a government program that’s been proven to not have great performance for actually providing quality care to people, and I think we need to address solutions that provide quality care in an affordable manner,” said Colbeck.

The state Senate committee will meet every two weeks over the summer to hear testimony and craft a bill.

11:15 a.m.

The Michigan Senate is meeting today to go over a myriad of issues. But the elephant in the room is Medicaid expansion.

Governor Snyder wants it. If the Michigan Senate passes it, Snyder will get the bill he wants.

But the leader of the Senate, Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), wants to study the issue, so Medicaid expansion has gone off to a Senate workgroup for now.

No vote is expected in today's Senate session, but there are plenty of people there to make their voices heard on the issue.

Jonathan Oosting of MLive reports Richardville outlined his expectations for the Medicaid expansion workgroup at a committee meeting this morning:

While the committee hearing may be brief, it could draw a large crowd. A coalition of business and health care groups is urging supporters to show up, even if they do not testify. Grassroots in Michigan, a group with tea party roots, is telling opponents to take a "half day vacation or go into work a bit late" in order to attend. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who has been traveling the state promoting the "Healthy Michigan" initiative and urging a Senate vote, is expected to host small business owners for roundtable discussion in his Lansing office at 11 a.m.

We'll hear more on this story from MPRN's Rick Pluta later today.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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