Division apparent on health care pool

LANSING, Mich. - The University of Michigan believes that a plan to create a single health insurance pool for all public employees is unconstitutional, firefighters believe it's unwise, but the president of Lansing Community College sees it as the right moral choice, according to a report by Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

Those varied opinions were part of testimony presented to the Public Employee Health Care Reform committee Thursday, MIRS reported. The panel is conducting hearings on House Speaker Andy Dillon's bill proposing the pool as a way to save up to $900 million.

Frederick Askari, chair of U-M's Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty, testified that only Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan would be large enough to handle such a large employee pool, calling the plan a "slam-dunk" for the insurer, MIRS reported. Askari also said that the University of Michigan already has a model health care program and is not likely to join a state pool.

Statewide and Lansing firefighter union representatives also spoke against the bill, saying it undermines collective bargaining and that they doubt the savings will materialize, according to MIRS.

Lansing Community College President Brent Knight spoke in favor of the plan, calling his testimony a "matter of conscience," MIRS reported.

He said public employees should have the same benefits as the private sector, according to MIRS. The college's health care costs rose 14 percent this year and are likely to do so again next year, Knight said.

Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., "Prof: Dillon Plan A 'Slam Dunk' For Blue Cross," Nov. 20, 2009 (Subscription required)

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Dillon Insurance Plan Could Generate Monumental Reform," Oct. 5, 2009