House Won’t Take Up Health Exchange
LANSING (AP) – A rift among Michigan’s Republican lawmakers means Gov. Rick Snyder won’t get the House approval he wants Wednesday to start work on a website for purchasing health insurance that’s required under the federal health care law.
House Speaker Jase Bolger’s spokesman, Ari Adler, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Republican caucus remains divided and won’t be ready to act on the health insurance exchange when lawmakers return Wednesday after a five-week break.
The Republican governor wanted the House to use the one-day session to approve the exchange. The GOP-controlled Senate already has approved letting Snyder’s administration use federal money to take preliminary steps to set up the exchange, but the House has balked, in part because many Republicans oppose the federal health care overhaul.
“While we will not be taking legislative action tomorrow, we will be working to finalize some plans on where we are headed on this issue,” Adler said. “We continue to talk to the governor’s office on this.”
Snyder’s spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel, said: “We wish they were moving forward tomorrow but will work to help address and resolve their additional questions before they are ready to take next steps.”
House Republicans initially blocked the administration’s efforts to tap $9.8 million in federal planning money for the exchange in the hope the U.S. Supreme Court would strike the law down last month. Instead, it upheld most of the law.
The state can’t spend the federal money without legislative approval. Nor can it apply for additional federal planning funds if the first grant hasn’t been used.
Now some GOP House members say any action on the exchange should be put off until November. If GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney wins the White House and Republicans capture the U.S. Senate, some parts of the federal health care law could be repealed.
The federal government will step in with its own exchange if Michigan hasn’t made progress by mid-November on setting up the online marketplace. Michigan officials are working on a state exchange but also are talking to federal officials about partnering on an exchange where the state handles just part of it.
Snyder has been asking lawmakers since last fall to approve the exchange so a federal partnership wouldn’t be needed.
Adler noted “that sense of urgency” the governor feels “is not the same for everyone.”
The website would allow individuals and small businesses to comparison shop for private health insurance. More than half of a million Michigan residents are expected to buy private insurance through the exchange once it’s up and running in 2014, including some who already have coverage.
Nearly 1.3 million residents – about 13 percent of Michigan’s population – are uninsured.
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