DARWIN BOOHER: Medicaid expansion demands due diligence

I read with interest the opinion piece by Jim Crees criticizing the Michigan Senate for taking time to thoroughly review major legislation. An ironic position since in a December 15, 2012, opinion by Mr. Crees, my colleagues and I were criticized for “ramrodding” the Right-to-Work legislation.

For some reason, folks seem to think there was a requirement to vote on this legislation before summer and that not having a vote was a failure to do my job.

There are hundreds of other bills in the process that did not receive a vote, including some of my own that I would have liked to see completed because they were important to our area. The simple truth was not enough senators were convinced to vote in favor of the bill. What good does taking a vote do if it only ends in rejection? Either the issue will be dead or lawmakers would have to start over. Either way, a vote would have brought us further from the very position that Mr. Crees advocates.

And, contrary to his claim that he wasn’t suggesting how we vote, Mr. Crees did indeed advocate for particular result. In fact, his advocacy isn’t even well disguised as the remainder of the opinion piece emphasized that a yes vote was the only sensible vote. However, some of the claims he makes in this advocacy editorial deserve clarification.

The piece suggests that more than 600,000 Michigan residents would receive some form of health care coverage. However, by 2022 it would be 477,677 residents added to the Medicaid rolls—that means we would be adding five percent of the entire state population for a grand total of over 21% on Medicaid.

It is stated that this “would be at no cost to taxpayers through the year 2020.” The last time I checked the money that the federal government uses is from the taxpayers (or borrowed from China). A look at all the circumstances where the Federal government has failed Michigan on promises demands that we carefully consider locking Michigan into a system that depends on funding from the federal government.

And, by the Obama Administration’s own admission, we already know there will be a decrease of federal support in the future for this program. And, of course, we also know that they are already overspending their annual budget.

Furthermore, the opinion piece states Michigan would gain a cash flow of $20 billion, which is the first time I have seen this despite all that I have read on this issue. In reality, the state budget office estimates that the total saving for BOTH the state and industry is just over $12.5 billion over the next 10 years. And, those numbers rest on far too many presumptions to provide any comfort they will hold true.

Further, the issue of reducing uncompensated health care costs to hospitals was raised by Mr. Crees. I agree that needs to happen, but perhaps we need to look at how those rates are set — most often they have nothing to do with the actual cost of a procedure. If we tied it to actual cost, there would be huge “savings” seen immediately.

Finally, I would also like to clarify that contrary to recent claims, I am not on vacation simply because the Senate is not in session, just like the governor isn’t on vacation when he is attending events across Michigan or even out of country. The bill that the governor wants a vote on was only in the Senate for five days and hadn’t even gone through a committee. I owe it to my constituents, my children and my grandchildren to do my due diligence before acting on any proposal with this great of a potential impact on our future. I plan to do just that.

In fact, I have been appointed to the new workgroup that will be studying and offering possible legislative options on reforming Medicaid in Michigan. I look forward to finding a solution to achieve that goal in a way that is responsible to Michigan taxpayers and to ensure our children and grandchildren are not saddled with even more debt. It would be irresponsible to take quick action and not fully take into account the long-term effects that any changes would have on our residents and the state.

That is why, although I would prefer to be focusing my time this summer as I have each of the past summers I have served as a legislator, by listening to constituents, meeting with local government officials, and talking with farmers, employers and the other stakeholders that make the 35th District special, I have embraced the opportunity to serve on this workgroup and work in earnest towards a solution that is right for Michigan and its future.

So, if Mr. Crees would like to put down his critical pen, he is welcome to tag along with me — that is, if he can keep up.