Bill would restrict ads for the state’s Medicaid expansion program

LANSING — A Republican state senator has floated a bill to prevent the state from advertising or encouraging enrollment in the Healthy Michigan Plan, the state’s Medicaid expansion program.

But Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, told members of the Senate’s health policy committee last week that she revised the bill to clarify that she’s only seeking to stop the state from spending money on paid advertising.

“Nothing in this bill prevents state employees from discussing Healthy Michigan, or from providing information written or otherwise or providing it on a website to residents,” Schuitmaker said during testimony.

The distinction is important, in part because enrollment in Healthy Michigan has soared past expectations.

As of January, the program has 613,747 participants, up nearly 7,300 members from the month before. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services projected the program would enroll 320,000 people in the first year of the program, which ended in March, and eventually reach 470,000.

The state spends $2 million per year on advertising, half of which is federal money, a DHHS spokeswoman said. The remaining $1 million comes from the state’s roughly $10 billion general fund.

Some Republican senators questioned whether the funds could be better spent on other services within the Healthy Michigan program, rather than on advertising.

“Don’t you think this population has been educated enough?” state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, asked DHHS administrators.

Even though enrollment has far surpassed expectations, enrollment fluctuates month to month, said Geralyn Lasher, DHHS’ external relations director. That’s because some people become newly income-eligible while others fail to file paperwork to determine continued eligibility or take jobs that have private coverage.

Frequent turnover requires constant education, Lasher said.

The committee didn’t vote on the bill. A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said he doesn’t consider the bill a priority.

‘Gag order’ bill advances

The House elections committee approved changes to a new law that prevents municipalities and school districts from sending mass mailings about ballot proposals 60 days before an election.

House Bill 5219, introduced by Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, removes the 60-day limit and also would allow “factual and strictly neutral information concerning the direct impact of a local ballot question on a public body or the electorate, except if the communication can reasonably be interpreted as an attempt to influence the outcome of a local ballot question.”

Lyons was the sponsor of the original provision. Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill, but urged lawmakers to follow it up with clarifying legislation. That law was heavily criticized by Democrats and many county clerks and school districts across the state, which referred to it as a “gag law” that prevented them for providing the public with bais factual information on ballot issues such as millages.

On Friday, a federal district judge granted a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing the original law ahead of the March 8 election. The bill moves to the House for a vote.

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Mon, 02/08/2016 - 7:59am
Ah, the important things the MIchigan GOP feels need to be 'fixed'. As they sit there with their government paid health insurance. Sickening.
Mon, 02/08/2016 - 9:10am
The lenient requirements for becoming a Republican State Senator are clearly exemplified by cheerleader Schuitmaker's proposal. Oh well, I suppose it's just politics as usual.
Mon, 02/08/2016 - 9:40am
How sad that she thinks the people who need this coverage do not need to be told that it is available to them. Shame on her. (But then why am I not surprised, considering what our elected officials in Lansing have been doing of late.)
Sun, 02/14/2016 - 8:18am
Please qualify your statement. It is the Republicans who pass these anti-everything bills. It is always along party lines, and right now, Republicans are the majority. Remember this the next time you vote.
Ed Carlson
Mon, 02/08/2016 - 10:12am
What incredible logic - we would not want too many people signing up for something that will actually benefit them. And the savings - why that amounts to .01% (not 1%, but .01%). Keep those brilliant ideas coming Senator Schuitmaker.
Sheryl Ferguson
Mon, 02/08/2016 - 10:26am
I agree that $1 Million could be better used than on advertising!
Mon, 02/08/2016 - 10:46am
If she is worried about the $1 million. Then maybe she should have thought about the millions she voted on spending attached to bills so that we the people can't vote on them in a general election and over turn their stupid laws. If I remember one bill cost us $5 million so we couldn't vote on it ourselves.
Judy B
Mon, 02/08/2016 - 11:02am
How would the State adequately promote Healthy Michigan without paid advertising and sustain its successful awareness and participation? In fact, should we consider paying for more? Why has she taken a stand on this particular program? What else does she believe the State is wasting money on promoting? I would like to know what's her true motivation?
Mon, 02/08/2016 - 12:31pm
Let's see...Michigan citizens don't need info via TV ,billboards any other form of informational outreach regards Healthy Michigan. (Per Rep Jones "haven't they been educated enough") Michigan citizens don't need info regards upcoming millages and how they may impact their taxes (hopefully that goes away..tho a governor who signs a bill while saying it needs changes ...strange) Michigan citizens don't need FOIA regards the legislature and governor's work. I guess we're supposed to trust. Whether you agree or not I have one word...Flint. Michigan citizens Do Need to be informed regards voting issues,candidates. So pass a law no more straight ticket. Clerks say they fear longer lines and voters leaving because they can't wait any longer Jobs, child care, transportation issues are reality for many younger voters. Too much monkey business, ? Special interest not the people's business. We need more "sunshine and fresh air" in this state. Bless them but I'm embarrassed that other states and countries are sending money, water to Michigan like we're a third world country
Chuck Fellows
Mon, 02/08/2016 - 2:44pm
Another attempt to limit the success of the ACA which has expanded healthcare to millions. Legislative time and effort would be better spent passing legislation forcing hospitals to publish their Chargemaster rates, drug companies to make public comparative effectiveness rates for their medicines, auditing insurance company Medical Loss Ratios (MRP) to insure their accuracy and progress to achieving the ROW MRP of 5% instead of denying preventative care to thousands of Michigan residents. Since Michigan is so close to Canada it would be beneficial if Michigan Citizens could lawfully purchase their medications in Canada. Here is an ugly example. Celebrex per pill at hospital Chargemaster rates are $50. per pill, while in Canada they sell for $3.14 per pill. Anybody with heart problems could benefit from reduced financial stress.
Thu, 02/11/2016 - 3:13pm
I hear from the GOP that they want to run government more like a business and advertising one's services is something that most businesses do.
Floyd Black
Sun, 02/14/2016 - 10:05am
I don't think you can educate too much.
Sat, 02/20/2016 - 1:36pm
Nothing was changed in the "Gag Order" law that effected the new Dark Money rules it contains.