Michigan of Two Minds on Healthcare Bill

April 2, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – State officials in Michigan appear to be of two minds on healthcare reform.

Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) issued an executive order this week establishing a Health Insurance Reform Coordinating Council within the state government “to identify steps that must be taken to ensure that Michigan citizens reap the full benefits outlined in the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act…” 

According to a press release, the council will be chaired by Michigan Department of Community Health (DCH) Director Janet Olszewski.     

The governor’s executive order creates an Office of Health Insurance Consumer Assistance within the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR) and an ombudsman to help provide consumers with information regarding health care insurance, assist with the filing of complaints, and to ensure compliance with laws and regulations relating to health care insurance.     

“Health care reform is designed to give Michigan families and businesses more control over their own health care, provide them with the security and stability that come with health care coverage, and reduce overall health care costs,” Granholm said in the press release.  “After waging a long and hard fight for this historic legislation, we want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to help citizens benefit under the new law.”

Opposing Views 

Speaking of long and hard fights, it so happens that Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox (R ) was one of a dozen state attorneys general that filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the very same federal legislation (see Obama Signs Health Reform and the Fight Begins).  “Never before in our history have you had to buy something as the price of citizenship,” said Cox in announcing that filing.  “This is an unprecedented overreach by Congress and the President. There are limits to what Congress can force the individual and the state to do, and this bill exceeds those limits.” 

Granholm, who has been an advocate for the reform measure, and who, in her most recent radio address called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “…the single most important reform of America’s health system in decades,” told Cox on March 24 that he does not have the constitutional authority to intervene on behalf of the state and directed him to act on his own in his capacity as attorney general in the multistate lawsuit.   

As outlined in Executive Order 2010-4, the Health Insurance Reform Coordinating Council will conduct a “comprehensive evaluation of the law and identify steps that the state must take to further enhance access to health care, reduce costs and improve the quality of health care in Michigan”.  According to the announcement, the council also will develop a coordinated and efficient response to implementation of the act and engage relevant stakeholders in the process.  

Council Members

In addition to the DCH director and OFIR commissioner, the council will be comprised of the directors of the DCH Medical Services Administration; the Department of Human Services; the Department of Technology, Management and Budget; and the Office of the State Employer, plus the state budget director and state personnel director.    

As a first step “in helping citizens gain access to information on the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act and how it affects them”, the state of Michigan has established a Web site at: www.michigan.gov/healthcarereform.