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Mich. Gov Creates Council to Oversee Health Care

Mich. Gov Creates Council to Oversee Health Care

Associated Press / AP Online

March 31, 2010

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed an executive order Wednesday setting up a council to oversee changes brought by the new federal health care law and said the measure will extend health insurance to hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents now without coverage. “It’s a very good deal for Michigan and for our health care coverage,” said Granholm, a Democrat who backed the plan.

Starting in 2014, the new law will require nearly all Americans to have health insurance through an employer, a government program or by buying it directly. That same year, new insurance markets will open for business, health plans will be required to accept all applicants and millions of people will receive tax credits to help them pay the premiums.

In Michigan this year, the law will extend health insurance coverage through Medicaid to 375,000 more residents, with the federal government picking up the entire cost for the new enrollees until 2017 and paying at least 90 percent of their costs after that, Granholm said. Some small businesses will get tax credits for providing health coverage to their employees.

The law also will allow 950,000 young adults ages 18 to 25 in the state to stay on their parents’ insurance and let 140,000 residents with pre-existing conditions obtain health care coverage. It will also give 279,000 Michigan seniors who reach the spending limit in their Medicare prescription drug coverage $250 this year toward covering costs beyond that limit. That so-called doughnut hole in Medicare drug coverage will be eliminated by 2020.

Dr. Stephen Guertin, who heads Sparrow Hospital’s Regional Children’s Center in Lansing, said at a news conference with Granholm that the new law brings a wealth of guarantees in coming months that will improve health care for children. He said he has seen the number of children without health insurance increase from 5 percent of his practice to 15 percent over the past five years, either because their parents can’t afford it or they have pre-existing conditions.

The new law’s benefits remain disputed by Republicans, including Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who said during a Tuesday interview on Fox News that he will continue to challenge the law’s constitutionality with 13 other attorneys general.

“Never before has Congress been allowed to do what they’ve done here,” said Cox, one of five Republicans running to replace Granholm when the term-limited governor steps down at year’s end. He calls the new law an “unprecedented overreach” by the federal government.

Granholm has criticized Cox for filing the suit, saying she is his client and that he can’t challenge the law on her behalf because she supports it. Cox told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News that he has revised the suit to say he is bringing it as the Michigan attorney general on behalf of the people of Michigan, not as the representative of the state of Michigan.

The new Health Insurance Reform Coordinating Council that Granholm’s executive order created will be headed by state community health director Janet Olszewski and include seven members from other state agencies. The council’s discussions will involve representatives from outside groups that play a role in health care.

The order also creates an Office of Health Insurance Consumer Assistance within the state agency that oversees insurance companies and state banks. The Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation also will be in charge of setting up an insurance exchange to allow individuals and small businesses to buy health care coverage.

Michigan has 1.2 million uninsured residents, the governor said. Asked about the law’s unpopularity with many Americans, she said politics has played a role in whipping up public skepticism.

“There has been an awful lot of misinformation … (put out) to prevent it from being passed,” she said. “It has elevated the level of fear that is not consistent with the facts.”

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