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Michigan Will Protect Obamacare Even if Nation Doesn’t

Five bills headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk for signature will ensure major health and civil rights protections inside the Affordable Care Act if they are ever stripped or repealed at the federal level.

a man holds a protest sign that says "hands off my healthcare!"
Protesters rally in downtown Detroit in 2017 against a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act. (Tanya Moutzalias |
Bills making core parts of the federal Affordable Care Act – a.k.a. Obamacare – state law in Michigan are headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk to be signed.

The state Senate on Tuesday, with mostly bipartisan support, voted to approve House Bills 4619 through 4623. Each bill passed the House in late June with at least some Republicans joining Democrats.

“We got everyone to a good place,” said Rep. Julie Rogers, D- Kalamazoo, “and there was a lot of support and really very little opposition at the end of the day.”

These five bills exist to ensure major health and civil rights protections inside the Affordable Care Act, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama, stay law in Michigan if they are ever to be stripped or repealed on the federal level.

HB 4619, which Rogers sponsored, prevents insurers from refusing someone based on gender, gender identity or expression and sexual orientation. They also can’t charge people different rates for the same coverage based on those factors plus race, color, creed and national origin.

HB 4620 prevents insurers from limiting or excluding someone from coverage based on a preexisting condition. Exceptions, however, include accident-only coverage, long-term care, retiree-only coverage and standalone dental and vision plans.

HB 4621 allows health insurance dependents to be covered on that plan until they’re 26 years old. Children of those dependents, however, are not required to be covered by that plan.

HB 4622 prevents lifetime or annual limits on the dollar value of certain essential benefits, including emergency services, hospitalization and pregnancy.

HB 4623 requires Michigan insurers offer coverage guaranteed by Obamacare, including hospitalization, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, pregnancy, infant care and preventive services like dentistry.

This package was a major priority this year for Whitmer and the new Democratic legislative majority, which holds only two-vote advantages in each chamber.

Republican senators joined Democrats in passing every bill but HB 4623 on Tuesday. Sen. Michael Webber of Rochester Hills was the only conservative senator to vote for everything.

Sen. Mark Huizenga, R- Walker, said he supports protections like stopping companies denying insurance based on preexisting conditions, but he worries about Michigan becoming vulnerable to litigation from regulators if Obamacare is changed and the state is then incompliant with federal law.

“I came here to solve problems like addressing high costs for health care and insurance,” Huizenga said. “And I believe we can work in a bipartisan manner to achieve these goals without pursuing these duplicative measures that have no meaningful impact on current policy.”

The last attempt to gut Obamacare in Congress was in 2017, when the late U.S. Sen John McCain, R- Arizona, famously made a surprise tiebreaking vote to kill legislation that would have changed it.

A federal judge in Texas this March struck down part of Obamacare’s requirement for no-cost coverage of PrEP, an HIV pre-exposure drug. This case may reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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