In the race for Michigan governor, there are sharp differences between GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette and Democratic former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion, Medicaid work requirements and other health issues. Here are the highlights:
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AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
As Michigan Attorney General, Bill Schuette has steadfastly opposed the Affordable Care Act, marshalling the resources of his office to file suit against the law, often in tandem with conservative attorneys general from other states.
- In 2011, Schuette joined a suit to block Obamacare, saying: “I will fight Obamacare tooth-and-nail to protect our citizens from this constitutional overreach."
- In 2013, Schuette opposed Michigan’s expansion of Medicaid known as Healthy Michigan ‒ a facet of the Affordable Care Act. His spokesperson said: "He believes that the federal government is not a reliable or steady funder and the long term fiscal costs of government expansion of health care is not sustainable and will result in huge costs to Michigan taxpayers."
- Schuette reaffirmed his stand against the ACA in March with a tweet: “The Affordable Care Act violated the very first principle of medicine: Do no harm. When I'm governor we will work to repeal & replace Obamacare.”
But since vanquishing his Republican primary rivals in early August, his campaign has been more restrained in its rhetoric, including being more equivocal about his previously stated opposition to Healthy Michigan.
Asked by Bridge Magazine on Aug. 23 if Schuette would sign a bill repealing Healthy Michigan, campaign spokesman John Sellek declined to answer the question directly. Instead, Sellek stated: “As governor, Bill will review all spending programs that are currently enacted under Michigan law.”
Whitmer is an unreserved supporter of the ACA. She issued this statement to Bridge: “Everyone deserves access to quality, affordable health care and the ACA established guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions and expanded essential coverage benefits that many people didn't have before.”
- While the Trump administration has cut back federal funding to market and help consumers navigate health care options, Whitmer said she’d consider strategies like that of New York, which invested $7 million in ads for Obamacare and boosted enrollment by 4.2 percent: “As governor, I would be open to using marketing strategies like information campaigns to make sure Michiganders know where to purchase affordable health coverage that protects pre-existing conditions.”
- Whitmer joined 11 Democrats and eight Republicans in 2013 in voting to expand Medicaid for low-income Michigan residents under the ACA. She told Bridge in a statement: “As Senate Democratic Leader, I worked across the aisle to expand Medicaid to over 680,000 Michiganders through Healthy Michigan. As governor, I'll take on Schuette, Trump and Republicans who threaten our health coverage, protect people with pre-existing conditions and work to make healthcare more affordable for all Michigan families.”
COVERAGE FOR PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS
Enactment of the ACA brought with it the guarantee that people with pre-existing medical conditions could obtain health insurance coverage.
- Schuette has said, going back to at least 2014, that he supports coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26 ‒ both popular elements of the ACA.
- His (mostly Democratic) critics accuse Schuette of hypocrisy, however, arguing that he repeatedly tried to strike down the ACA without presenting a concrete plan for protecting chronically ill patients had the law been swept aside.
- Truth Squad: Michigan Democratic Party attacks Bill Schuette on healthcare
- It’s worth noting that Schuette opted not to join 20 other states in a more recent federal suit that argues the ACA forces “an unconstitutional and irrational regime” on the states and should be invalidated. In June, the Trump administration weighed in on the lawsuit and argued that as of Jan. 1, 2019, protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be struck down.
Whitmer’s backing of the ACA underscores her support for its mandate that insurance companies may not discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions.
MEDICAID WORK REQUIREMENTS
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a measure in June requiring certain Medicaid recipients in Michigan to work a prescribed number of hours or risk losing coverage.
Campaign spokesman Sellek said: “Bill supports Medicaid work requirements for able-bodied people.”
Whitmer opposes Medicaid work requirements, stating: “This legislation will take health care away from tens of thousands of Michigan families, which will hurt our whole economy. By supporting this shameful legislation, Bill Schuette has made it crystal clear that he's not on the side of working families.”
- Called for a combination of drug awareness programs, resources for addicts and families, aggressive law enforcement and strong treatment plans, in a 2017 guest column for the Detroit Free Press.
- Joined other state attorneys general in urging health insurers to support alternatives to opioid treatment for pain including non-opioid medications, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage and chiropractic care.
- Backs retail stores hosting state disposal boxes collecting unused prescription drugs as a new tool to fight the opioid epidemic.
- As governor, Whitmer said she would issue a state of emergency over the opiate epidemic. In a November policy speech, she said she wants to “develop the best opioid treatment centers in the country” and called for greater funding for hospitals and medical centers in northern Michigan, where rural counties have been hit hard.
- She also advocated for public awareness initiatives and greater mental health funding, and asked pharmaceutical companies to lower prices for newer, less addictive opiates.
She said she would partner with law enforcement and pharmacies to expand drug take-back programs and support investment in drug treatment courts to “make sure that people with addictions could get connected to treatment, instead of going to jail.”