TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder gained support from a key legislative leader Friday in his push to establish a state-run online market where Michigan residents could shop for private health insurance coverage, even as he took an initial step toward a different approach: teaming with the federal government.
President Obama's health care law calls for creating the markets, or exchanges, where households and small businesses can compare policies. Each state must decide whether to operate its own program, let the federal government do it, or form a partnership under which state and federal agencies would play different roles.
Snyder prefers a state-based system, which the Senate endorsed last year with a vote approving the use of $9.8 million in federal funds to plan it. But the House has delayed action because its Republican majority opposes the Obama plan and was waiting to see if Mitt Romney would win the presidential election. Romney had pledged to scrap the program.
With Obama's re-election, GOP leaders have acknowledged the president's health care plan will move forward and a decision must be made about the insurance exchanges, which are meant to give people who don't have coverage through their employers a way to compare options.
In a statement Friday, House Speaker Jase Bolger reiterated his opposition to the Obama plan but said "a state-planned, state-run and state-operated exchange appears to be a better choice than permitting the federal government to make decisions for Michigan residents."
The House will consider the matter when it convenes Nov. 27, a spokeswoman for Bolger said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had required states that want to have their own programs to provide notification and a blueprint for running them by Friday. But the agency this week extended the deadline to Dec. 14.
Even so, Snyder said that might not be enough time for Michigan. So his administration has applied for a federal grant as a first step toward the fallback position of teaming with the federal department.
"At this point we're moving toward a state partnership exchange," he said. "However, we will continue to work with our legislative partners and seek more details and clarity from the federal government to make a final determination on Michigan's path forward — whether that's a state partnership exchange or state-based exchange."
Bolger said keeping control with the state would "minimize federal overreach" while enabling Michigan officials to make sure there's enough competition between companies and choices for consumers.
"We can work to ensure Michigan families maintain the option of working with local insurance professionals to act as personal navigators to the exchange rather than banning their participation as in a federal exchange," he said.
House Democrats also spoke favorably of a state market and accused majority Republicans of dragging their feet.
The Obama plan "is the law of the land, and it goes without question that Michigan officials are in the best position to create a health exchange for our citizens," said Rep. Alberta Tinsley-Talabi of Detroit. "If we wait any longer for hearings and discussion then we are shortchanging ourselves and Michigan residents."