Bill Would Ban Advertising to Get More People on Medicaid

State Senator: This 'just encourages more people to become dependent on government'

A bill introduced by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, would prohibit the state from advertising “Healthy Michigan,” which is the title the Snyder administration gave to its adoption of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

The current state budget authorizes spending $2 million annually to promote the Medicaid expansion to potential enrollees. Of that, $1 million comes from Michigan taxpayers and the balance from federal matching funds.

“I ran into a constituent who complained about the state advertising Healthy Michigan. Then I saw the commercial on TV and it made me upset,” Schuitmaker said. “Here we have something that was estimated to be for more like 400,000 people and it’s already up to 600,000. So there is all of that additional money we’ll be spending and then we turn around and spend even more on advertising it. Why? Obviously we don’t need to be spending more dollars advertising this, and doing so just encourages more people to become dependent on government.”

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In 2013, Gov. Rick Snyder called for the Michigan Legislature to accept the Medicaid expansion, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision in the federal health care law that had required states to loosen eligibility rules on Medicaid. That summer, amid rancor and contentiousness, the GOP-controlled Legislature approved the expansion by allowing Democratic lawmakers to provide the majority of needed votes.

Critics of the expansion, angered over a Republican-controlled Legislature enacting a key component of Obamacare, warned that state taxpayers would be on the hook for billions of dollars in continuing costs if the federal government cut back its share of the funding. In 2013, the state Medicaid agency estimated that the expansion would lead to another 477,000 people on Medicaid; two years later, the number of additional people enrolled is more than 600,000.

Schuitmaker’s bill, Senate Bill 542, was introduced on Oct. 6. It simply states, “Beginning October 1, 2015 a state agency shall not use state funds to advertise or otherwise encourage enrollment in the Healthy Michigan plan.”

"I don’t think this is something we should be doing and I especially don’t believe it is something we should be using taxpayers’ dollars to do," Schuitmaker said.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Health Policy Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake. Although Shirkey voted for the Medicaid expansion he is one of the co-sponsors of Schuitmaker’s bill. The other co-sponsors include the following: Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township; Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St Clair; and Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph.

The governor did not respond to an email offering the opportunity to comment on the bill.


See also:

'Voting Yes on Medicaid Expansion is Voting Yes on Obamacare'

Obamacare Exchange: Michigan Dodged a Bullet

Obamacare's Michigan Tale: Small Drop in Uninsured While Families Pay More

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