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Medicaid expansion bill clears state Senate committee

A state Senate panel has approved legislation to expand Medicaid in Michigan. The bill would extend coverage to hundreds of thousands of residents through the Affordable Care Act.

The panel also advanced two alternative Medicaid proposals. Neither would expand Medicaid. But proponents say they would expand health care coverage – either through other state programs or the free market.

Senator Bruce Caswell  is sponsoring legislation that would create a state-run health care program for low-income residents who are not currently eligible for Medicaid.

“This is about dollars and cents for the taxpayers I represent,” Caswell said. “And it’s also about trying to get some level of health care to all of our citizens. Because I do believe it makes sense for the health system as a whole for everyone to have access to care.”

But Jim Haveman, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, says the alternative plans are too costly -- especially the one that takes and entirely free market approach.

“It would mean the dismantling of the Medicaid program as we know it today,” Haveman said. “And that’s very disruptive.”

Officials with Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration agree with Haveman, saying both alternative plans would be too expensive. They’re urging the full Senate to approve the Medicaid expansion before September.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says sending all three plans to the full Senate will keep their options open. But he says it will be hard to improve upon the main Medicaid expansion bill.

“I think it’s got pretty strong bipartisan support right now,” Richardville said. But you never know what’s going to happen with the other two bills. And I really don’t see them as peeling votes off as much as complementary kinds of things.”

Richardville says he expects the full Senate to take a vote on Medicaid in late August.

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