Panel OKs Medicaid bill

LANSING (AP) – A Michigan legislative committee on Wednesday voted to make at least 320,000 low-income adults eligible for Medicaid health insurance in 2014 and beyond, setting the stage for a crucial vote in the Republican-dominated Senate in late August.

The Government Operations Committee also approved two alternative plans backed by conservative senators who oppose expanding the Medicaid program under the federal health care law. The rival bills, though, lack bipartisan support while the revised Medicaid legislation has backing from Democrats along with some Senate Republicans, Gov. Rick Snyder, business groups, insurers and advocates for the poor.

The panel’s chairman, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, acknowledged his decision to advance all three plans is unorthodox but said it’s warranted given the issue is so big and affects so many people. While he strongly supports the Medicaid bill, he said proponents behind the alternative plans deserve a chance to keep pushing the new bills despite critics questioning their cost to the state and patients.

The committee votes came six weeks after the full Senate adjourned without voting on a House-passed Medicaid expansion plan to the dismay of an angry Snyder. The Senate version of Medicaid expansion makes changes but largely keeps intact the guts of the House proposal backed by the Republican governor.

Asked if he will drop his preference that at least half of Senate Republicans be OK with voting on Medicaid expansion, Richardville said: