The State Senate narrowly approved expansion of Medicaid coverage Tuesday. The Gongwer News Service says the final vote of 20-to-18 followed a one-vote rejection of the plan earlier in the day.
The measure extending health insurance to about 470-thousand low-income people in Michigan got support from all 12 Senate Democrats but only eight Republicans. None were from southwest Michigan. Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) was among those voting against a bipartisan bill that had cleared the state House earlier this year. Nofs says he supported an alternative Senate plan that he thinks would be more fiscally sound.
The plan to support expansion of Medicaid had the strong support of Democrats, unions, advocates for the poor, business groups, and Gov. Rick Snyder. He said passage of the legislation will make "Michigan healthier and stronger" while promoting personal responsibility through co-pays. Snyder returned abruptly from an official trip to Israel earlier in the year to blast the Senate when it failed to bring the House bill up for immediate action. Republican Senate leaders appointed a special committee to study the issue. It developed the alternative plan that was rejected Tuesday.
Democrats and their supporters saw the final vote go their way but many were still grumbling about the length of time it took to get the legislation approved. Senate Democrats and officials of the Michigan AFL-CIO say the failure of GOP-led Senate to give the Medicaid expansion bill "immediate effect" means that Michigan will miss a January 1 federal deadline. And they say that means the state's taxpayers will have to pony up $7 million a day until expansion does go into effect.
The most outspoken opponents of the bill based their objections on the fact that it is part of the federal Affordable Care Act known as "Obamacare". Gongwer says some Michigan "Tea Party" activists predict that the eight GOP senators who supported the expansion will face primary challenges in 2014.