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Metro Detroit, Royal Oak

July 8, 2013

Snyder pushes for Medicaid expansion

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

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Gov. Rick Snyder addresses an audience inside Royal Oak’s Beaumont Hospital July 1. Snyder has traveled around the state lobbying for support of Medicaid expansion.

Gov. Rick Snyder made a stop at Royal Oak’s Beaumont Hospital July 1 as part of his lobbying effort for votes on expanding Medicaid coverage to thousands of Michigan residents.

In the visit, he called the current health care system “dumb” and “broken” and urged those in attendance inside the hospital’s auditorium to call their senators.

“Speak up,” he said. “I need your help.”

Medicaid is a government insurance program for people who meet low-income and other eligibility requirements.

The expansion of the program to cover more people is one large part of the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as “Obamacare.”

Along with the mandate that every American carries some form of health insurance, the Medicaid expansion is poised to go into effect at the beginning of next year. When the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, it initially mandated that states accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, but a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision said whether or not to participate in the broadened program is up to the states to decide.

As a protest to Obamacare, some Republican-dominated state legislatures are saying no to the funds. Snyder is hoping Michigan does not go down the same road.

The state House of Representatives passed the Medicaid expansion bill last month and now Snyder wants his Republican colleagues in the Senate to do the same.

“This isn’t about politics,” Snyder said while seated on the auditorium stage with Beaumont doctors and former patients. “This isn’t about polarization. It’s about common sense.”

Snyder, in a brief press conference with the media afterward, said he wasn’t sure how many Senate votes he had, but he expects a vote in August.

If passed, the expansion would cover initially 300,000 additional Michigan residents and then expand to 470,000 residents in subsequent years, Snyder said.

Among those on stage with Snyder was Aida Cutler, from the American Cancer Society and someone who has seen several family members without access to insurance die from cancer.

“The people of Michigan want this,” Cutler said. “So it’s up to our Senate to get going.”

Beaumont staff members —  including Sandor Shoichet, the director of the outpatient clinic — also expressed their support.

Shoichet said people without insurance struggle between paying rent or paying for needed medication.

“It’s a struggle for many of the patients,” Shoichet said. “And it’s become worse during the recession.”

Attempts to reach state Senate Republicans opposed to the bill before the Fourth of July holiday were unsuccessful, but Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said in a statement that he has formed a special Medicaid expansion committee, called the Healthy Michigan Workgroup, to meet over the summer.

“I look forward to working with the governor, the House and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to present a plan for a healthier Michigan,” he said in the statement.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.