Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger took credit today for effective leadership after asking the House to adopt a $30 million federal grant to implement a health insurance exchange in the state.
Regrettably, that leadership came about eight months too late, resulting in the very outcome he was trying to fight.
Ever since Congress passed the Affordable Health Care Act in 2010, state House Republicans have been looking for ways to gut the legislation, including putting the brakes on a federally mandated health insurance exchange, largely funded by a federal grant.
Exchange proponents say the goal was to give states great autonomy in setting up the exchanges. Despite what critics claim, the exchanges were not designed to install confusing layers of federal bureaucracy, but to allow consumers to navigate a bewildering, often predatory, private health insurance market that had a history of reducing many to tears.
Gov. Rick Snyder endorsed an exchange, and the Michigan Senate passed the measure. But House Republicans remained steadfast in their opposition, embracing the wild hope that the U.S. Supreme Court would throw out the entire law last year. In June 2012, the high court largely upheld the federal law, including the exchanges.
If Bolger wanted to be an effective leader, that would have been the time to act. The exchange was a virtual certainty, much like death and taxes. Michigan still had a chance to approve the exchange and exert great control over how it is structured.
But the House Republicans dithered, continuing to grumble about Obamacare. And sadly, the window for Michigan’s autonomy on the exchange closed.
Remarkably, however, the light bulb clicked has lit over Republican leadership’s head. On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee finally approved the health exchange measure, and the House approved it Thursday. It would allow Michigan to retain a small measure of autonomy in structuring the exchange – basically its last chance to do so.
So now Michigan is left with this farcical outcome. Because Michigan Republicans have spent months blocking the exchange because of concerns about federal control, they have actually brought about the very thing they were fighting – federal control of the makeup of the health exchange.
Thanks for the leadership.