Michigan Sen. Randy Richardville (R., Monroe) has the title of state Senate majority leader. But he has done anything but lead on an issue of crucial importance to his state.
The federal government has offered to extend Medicaid coverage to another 470,000 Michiganians, almost for free. The state would pay nothing at first, and then no more than 10 percent of the cost starting in 2020. The savings to hospitals, businesses, and those who already have health insurance would be huge.
Despite opposition from radical Tea Party elements, the state House passed the Medicaid expansion last month. The votes are almost certainly there in the Senate, too; all Democrats and a significant minority of Republicans want to broaden Medicaid coverage.
But Mr. Richardville has repeatedly refused to take a vote, saying the issue needs more “study” by a special working group — and sending the Senate on a long and highly undeserved vacation. That exasperated Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who rightly said the lawmakers should “take a vote, not a vacation.”
The claim that the issue needs more study is ridiculous; the details and benefits of the proposal have been known for months. Last year, Mr. Richardville had no qualms about ramming right-to-work legislation through his body in less than a day. This year, he got a bill he introduced to help protect mortgage backers enacted into law in less than a month.
What’s really going on here is Mr. Richardville’s desire for political cover. He doesn’t want to bring the bill up for a vote unless it has the support of at least half of the 26-member GOP Senate caucus; currently, it has slightly less. Republicans fear the wrath of Tea Party fanatics who are trying to stop anything that resembles national health care.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Michiganians who desperately need health insurance are shortchanged. If the Medicaid expansion passes, families of four with incomes of less than $31,322 a year will be covered. For now, those who aren’t can properly blame the so-called leader from Monroe.