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The Michigan Senate finally joined the state House this week in expanding the state’s Medicaid program. As a result, nearly half a million more Michiganians will have health insurance — a move that is bound to produce a healthier work force and could potentially save the state billions of dollars. It’s past time for Ohio to join its northern neighbor.
Starting next year, a Michigan family of three that makes less than $26,500 a year will be eligible for Medicaid. The state will pay none of the costs of the expansion for three years; after that, Michigan will never pay more than 10 percent.
Still, winning passage was anything but easy. Stubborn Tea Party supporters, blinded by their hatred of Obama-care, prevented a vote for months. The first attempt Wednesday night narrowly failed.
But thanks to old-fashioned horse-trading and arm-twisting by Gov. Rick Snyder, Medicaid expansion passed on the second try. Minor differences between House and Senate versions of the bill are to be ironed out next week.
Yet there is something vital Michigan citizens still need to urge lawmakers to do: Both houses need to muster a two-thirds vote to give the bill immediate effect. Otherwise, instead of being eligible for benefits when the expansion program officially begins Jan. 1, Michigan will have to wait until April.
James Haveman, the Snyder administration’s director of community health, estimates that waiting until April would cost the state $630 million. State Sen. Roger Kahn, one of only eight Republicans who supported the bill, urged his colleagues to realize that “this is not Obamacare. This is not the Affordable Care Act. This is our bipartisan bill, which will reform the cost of Medicaid throughout the state.”
Whatever you think of the merits of President’s Obama’s health-care plan, Mr. Kahn is right. When Governor Snyder signs the bill, Michigan will become the 24th state to have expanded its Medicaid program. Because of that, fewer people will clog hospital emergency rooms for uncompensated primary care, driving up costs for people who are insured.
But while Michigan businesses and government soon will realize major savings, similar efforts are going nowhere in Columbus. Lawmakers need to approve Medicaid expansion by October to take full advantage of the $13 billion in federal aid on offer.
The Ohio General Assembly would do well to look north and follow Michigan’s example in voting for common sense.
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