Dillon plan opens debate

LANSING, Mich. – A proposal to create a statewide health pool for public employees is drawing support from some southeast Michigan business community representatives, but criticism from labor unions, according to media reports.

Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, announced the plan last week, saying that the state could save up to $900 million though such means as volume discounts, according to Crain’s Business Detroit.

The Detroit Regional Chamber, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Small Business Association of Michigan and Detroit Renaissance Inc., are among the organizations who have expressed interest or support, Crain’s reported.

A 2008 study by Detroit Renaissance concluded that Michigan employees' family health coverage costs are 23 percent higher than the national average, the report said.

“We've been calling for out-of-the-box reforms, and Speaker Dillon is stepping up to the plate,” Sarah Hubbard, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Chamber, told Crain’s.

Others are opposed to the plan, including the Michigan Education Association and its insurance affiliate, the Michigan Education Special Services Association, according to the Associated Press.

Spokesmen from those organizations said that teachers already have accepted low or no wage increases in order to maintain health benefit levels, according to an AP report published by WDIV-TV, Detroit. MEA spokesman Doug Pratt also said the union questions the ability of the state to run a major health plan efficiently.

Bruce Marwil, president of an employee benefits firm in Farmington Hills, told Crain’s that there are ways the public sector can save on health insurance without implementing a government pool.

WDIV-TV,  Teachers Question Consolidating Benefits,” July 19, 2009

Crain’s Detroit Business, “Dillon’s health insurance pool plan draws business backing,” July 19, 2009 (Subscription required)

Michigan Education Report, “MESSA says no to requests for insurance data,” Feb. 29, 2008