Representative Heise cannot attend our meeting on Tuesday. He asked me to post his response regarding health care exchanges. There is a link at the bottom for further information.
Unfortunately I have a prior commitment with the Boy Scouts that evening. I know, however, that there is concern regarding the vote yesterday on the Health Care Exchange, and I'd like you to share this message with the group:
Let me be clear that I do not, and have never supported, “Obamacare.” The Michigan House Republican Caucus and I communicated our concerns and questions regarding the Health Care Exchange to Governor Snyder on August 15, 2012. When I and the House GOP refused to implement a state-based exchange last year, Michigan was given a choice between entering a state-federal partnership willingly, or having a completely federally-run exchange forced upon us. Gov. Snyder chose to pursue a partnership, in order to keep as much regulatory oversight as possible in Michigan hands. The Governor then recommended that we accept the federal government’s offer of $31 million for a health care exchange planning grant, given the fact that President Obama was re-elected, and Obamacare is the law of the land.
It is our job to take the best option available to us to protect Michigan's hard-working taxpayers and prevent the federal government from doing any more harm. We don’t choose to enter into this agreement willingly, but elections have consequences, and a health care exchange is coming to Michigan whether we like it or not. By accepting this $31 million, we will lessen the impact on local residents, lower the cost for taxpayers, and give Michigan as much control as possible.
HB 4111 also protects us from the overreach of the federal government, and ensures Michigan control in several key areas:
1. The federal funding will pay for necessary improvements to the state's information technology systems. An exchange is coming to Michigan one way or another, and our public networks must be able to utilize it. If the federal government does not cover these costs, Michigan's taxpayers will have to do so in its place.
2. The federal government could penalize the state for inaction by reducing health-care funding for Michigan's poorest residents. Michigan taxpayers would have to pay more at the state level if they wanted to make up for the difference.
3. A state-federal partnership is the only way for state-based watchdogs to have knowledge and oversight of federal activities or regulatory changes. Under a federal exchange, the health care of Michigan residents would be shrouded in federal bureaucracy and government red tape.
4. A state-federal partnership gives state lawmakers and Michigan residents more say over the creation and maintenance of an exchange. Decisions about regulations, insurance, insurance agents, and plan options would be in state hands.
5. Michigan taxpayers will only be able to come to their state lawmakers with questions and concerns if a state-federal partnership is implemented. They will be at the sole mercy of the federal bureaucracy if a completely federal exchange is implemented.
6. Michigan's small businesses are already paying a tax to pay for the exchange with no return on their investment. Accepting this federal grant allows the state to put this money to use locally, for Michigan taxpayers, instead of giving it permanently to Washington, D.C.
7. The state's involvement in the creation of the exchange will keep Michigan as the sole regulator of insurance agents and agencies. A completely federal exchange would put Michigan taxpayers and small businesses under dual regulations, raising costs for consumers.
8. A completely federal exchange will give the federal government the authority to hire federal bureaucrats to handle our insurance options, instead of Michigan's local insurance agents. This federally-controlled exchange would squeeze out Michigan's small businesses, jeopardizing the livelihood of thousands of Michigan families.
When state involvement can do so much to protect our local residents, ceding complete control to the federal government is just irresponsible. No conservative likes either option in front of us, but this isn't about politics; it's about people. We have to do our job, and fight hard to protect Michigan's hard-working taxpayers during this process.
Pursuing a state-federal partnership will not be a popular approach, but it is the best, workable option for the people of Michigan. And let’s be honest with ourselves: We are losing the fight on Obamacare every day. We lost in the Supreme Court last summer, and most importantly, we lost at the Ballot Box last fall. The House GOP in Lansing, along with Attorney General Bill Schuette and his staff in Lansing, have done all we legally and procedurally can to stop Obamacare. Unfortunately, the American people and the U.S. Supreme Court have spoken on this issue, and we must deal with this reality while preserving as much state control as possible. If we want to fight Obamacare, we must support common-sense, electable conservatives to the US Congress in 2014 and '16 who will either de-fund or dismantle the program.
Kurt L. Heise