On Thursday, the Michigan House Health Policy Committee held what reportedly will be its final hearing on a state Obamacare exchange before the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” in June. While previous hearings were dominated by special interests affected by the law, this one was for “regular” people, about 120 of whom showed up despite semi-blizzard conditions.
Representatives of a few special interests spoke, plus a small handful of individuals who support PPACA, but the testimony was dominated by statements from Tea Party activists and leaders who expressed passionate opposition to both the federal law and creation of a state-level agency to administer its subsidies (the “exchange,” or “MiHealth Marketplace”). As they walked up to the Capitol, attendees were greeted by a bundled-up Deb O’Hagan and other members of the Lakes Area Tea Party, who had set up a literature table providing intellectual ammunition for exchange opponents.
Leading off the testimony was a group of physicians from the group Docs4PatientCare. Grand Rapids pediatrician Megan Edison is vice president of the organization’s Michigan Chapter, and she introduced her five colleagues, all wearing their white hospital coats. On behalf of the organization, member Rob Steele told the committee the following:
“The doctors and health care professionals of Docs4PatientCare are dedicated to the preservation of the doctor-patient relationship. Our primary concern is the health and well-being of our patients. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act neither protects patients nor leads to affordable care.”
Steele criticized the notion that creating a state-level Obamacare exchange will give Michigan more “control” than letting the federal government do it. He said the 7,500 words of the exchange legislation that passed the state Senate can be distilled down to just these 22 words on page 18: “The marketplace shall . . . perform all duties and obligations of an exchange required by federal law,” meaning Obamacare.
Chirs Jurrians of the Grand Rapids Central Tea Party quoted at length from a Capcon article, "Legislators, Be Careful What You Wish for on Exchange." Several other individuals shared excerpts from articles published by the Mackinac Center, or read these into the record in their entirety.
Scott Hagerstrom of Americans for Prosperity sent a shot over the bow of politicians tempted to create a state exchange if the Supreme Court fails to invalidate Obamacare. He pointed out that since the law only authorizes insurance subsidies delivered via state exchanges, not the federal “fallback” ones, and since employers who don’t provide insurance to employees eligible for subsidies are subject to a $3,000 fine per employee, creating a state exchange is equivalent to levying higher taxes on Michigan job providers.
Kaye Edmonds of the Lenawee County 9/12 group described Obamacare as “an economic disaster, and a potentially lethal endeavor that will destroy the finest health care system in the world.” She urged the committee to take no action on an exchange until after the Supreme Court rules, and if it does not invalidate the law, until after the presidential election in November (all the current Republican presidential candidates have vowed to repeal the law).
Tina Dupont of the Tea Party of West Michigan pointed out that if enough states push back by refusing to create an exchange it could force congress to reopen the PPACA and possibly repeal it. Denise Magewick-Schlotz suggested that instead of creating an exchange, legislators get behind a multi-state Health Care Compact that would devolve health care regulation and programs from the federal to state governments, and allow member states to exempt themselves from Obamacare.
More than two dozen individuals testified during the three-hour hearing. More than a dozen submitted written testimony, which can be found on the House Health Policy Committee website.