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El-Sayed releases details of Medicare-style "Michicare" health plan

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Updated on 6/7/18 at 11:10 am.

On the day Michigan's state legislatue moved to repeal the state's prevailing wage law, one Democrat running for governor was focused on health care.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed released details of his “MichiCare” health care plan in Detroit today. He says that if elected, he’ll work to implement a single-payer, Medicare-for-all style health care plan that would cover all Michiganders.

El-Sayed says he would pay for his plan with a new, graduated payroll tax that all working people would pay, coupled with new taxes on the gross earnings of businesses making more than $2 million a year.

But El-Sayed insists a state-run, universal health care plan would produce savings for nearly everyone, including most businesses, by cutting administrative costs and largely removing private insurers as middle men. He says his plan would also eliminate additional payments common to private health plans like co-pays, premiums and deductibles.

“They don’t have to worry about in-network, out-of-network. They don’t have to worry about the co-pay. They don’t have to worry about the premium, they don’t have to worry about the deductible. It’s just health care for everybody,” El-Sayed said.

“We’re cutting that middleman, and we’re cutting the administrative costs, and we’re cutting the replicated overhead costs that come from private insurance companies. That’s what delivers a 9% savings in the system overall, immediately.”

El-Sayed says this would be the only such Medicare-for-all-style health plan in the country, and he admits it would face significant political headwinds. But he says voters are open to the idea, and entrenched opposition in Lansing is no reason not to aim for something he calls “smart politics and even smarter policy.”

“We’ve got an opportunity right now to put the horse of policy ahead of the cart of politics. To stand up for what is right for Michiganders, by standing up to the corporations who’ve kept it the way it is for far too long,” El-Sayed said.

“Now they’ll tell you it can’t be done. Well, I would say if you’re taking corporate bribe money from the big corporations who don’t want it to be done…yes, it can’t be done.”

Though he didn’t mention her by name, El-Sayed’s repeated references to candidates who take “corporate bribe money” and the state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, are not-so-veiled shots at former State Senator Gretchen Whitmer, who is one of El-Sayed’s rivals for the Democratic nomination for governor.

In February, reports surfaced that Blue Cross-Blue Shield executives were urging employees to support Whitmer with campaign donations. But speaking to Michigan Radio’s Statesidein April, Whitmer denied she was “too close to the status quo” on health care.

“…and anyone who challenges whether or not...my interests are on behalf of the working people of Michigan or some business isn’t familiar with my record,” Whitmer said.

“I’ve got a record on behalf of people in this state — a record that shows that I will work with anyone to make sure we expand access, and I’m proud of that record.”

Whitmer has shied away from calling for single-payer style health system. She strongly support the state’s recent Medicaid expansion program, Healthy Michigan, and has proposed alternative measures for lowering health care costs.

The other Democrat running for governor, Shri Thanedar, calls for universal coverage for children under 18 on his campaign website by strengthening the Healthy Kids program, and has said during interviews he supports a single-payer plan at the federal level.

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story indicated Mr. Thanedar has also shied away from supporting a single-payer healthcare plan. His campaign material indicate support for universal healthcare, but a campaign spokesman says the campaign uses those words synonymously.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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