LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The GOP-led Michigan Senate adjourned Thursday without voting to partner with the federal government on an online health insurance marketplace, rejecting Gov. Rick Snyder's plan to spend a $31 million federal grant implementing a key component of the U.S. health care overhaul.
The Republican governor said it was the last day to act because lawmakers are taking a two-week break, and Michigan will miss a deadline to submit a consumer assistance plan for the exchange without being able to spend the federal money.
Now the federal government will fully control the website and call center, which is intended to help people shop for required insurance starting Oct. 1. Coverage kicks in Jan. 1.
Snyder spokesman Kurt Weiss said the state will be forced to spend $8 million of its own money to link computer systems to the federal exchange. That is because the exchange will be used to determine people's eligibility for Medicaid and whether they qualify for income-based federal aid to help pay their premiums.
"At this point in time, we're not moving forward," Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, told reporters. "Our caucus is a pretty conservative caucus and we voted on something over a year ago, and now this is a change to that. I think there's just real concerns that the federal government is not prepared to enact what they have kind of forced at us. For us to sign up and say we can do it better when we don't even know what all the things are that are going to be required, we're just not on board with that."
With the Senate's inaction, Snyder's 1 ½-year odyssey to win legislative approval of the new insurance market has likely come to an end.
The Senate quickly got behind his call for a state-controlled exchange in 2011. But House Republicans opposed to the contentious health care law resisted throughout 2012.
With Plan B, the governor pitched a partnership website controlled almost entirely by the federal government. The House recently assented to spending $31 million in federal money for the exchange — reasoning the contentious law is here to stay — but support was lacking among Senate Republicans.
A partnership exchange would have let Michigan handle some customer service functions and approve insurers wanting to offer health plans on the exchange, which supporters argued would save them from an extra layer of regulation and prevent the state from having to spend its own money.
But some opponents said the money was a "bribe" and they did not want to have a role in implementing a law they oppose.
House Bill 4111: http://1.usa.gov