Since Gov. Rick Snyder was elected in Michigan, he has been hard at work championing conservative legislation. First, he signed an expansive Emergency Manager law which allows un-elected city officials to tear up union contracts and cut public services. Then he helped transform Michigan, an historic union stronghold, into a "right-to-work" state. During the same legislative session, the Michigan legislature passed—and Snyder approved—stringent abortion restrictions.
But on one key health care policy, Snyder and some of his powerful Republican allies are breaking with conservative orthodoxy. Thanks to their efforts, Michigan will soon become just the third Republican-controlled state to accept federal Medicaid expansion funds under the Affordable Care Act. The state legislature gave final approval to Medicaid expansion on Tuesday, and Gov. Snyder has said he will sign the bill when he returns from a trade mission to Asia.
"This is a bright day in Michigan," Snyder said at a press briefing following the law's passage. He estimates that accepting federal expansion funds will extend health care coverage to an additional 470,000 state residents and save the state $206 million over the next fiscal year alone.
State House Speaker Jase Bolger, also a Republican, is equally supportive of the measure, even as he continues to oppose the Affordable Care Act.
"To those who oppose Obamacare, I encourage them to work tirelessly for its repeal because it is a mistake," he wrote in a July column for MLive.com. "But until then, it is the law of our land and we must face taxpayer challenges and the challenges of Michigan’s uninsured citizens head on—this reform is the right thing to do."
On this issue, Snyder and Bolger did not have the full support of their party. Fewer than half of the House Republican caucus voted for the expansion, which was buoyed by nearly unanimous Democratic support. Fewer than one-third of Senate Republicans voted for the bill, and a Republican insurrection in that chamber successfully delayed implementation of the expansion until Spring 2014. The delay in implementation might cost the state more than $630 million in lost federal funding.
Two major conservative institutions in Michigan also vigorously objected to the Medicaid expansion proposal. The Michigan branch of Americans For Prosperity, a Koch-backed advocacy group, and the Mackinac Center, a right-wing think tank, both split with Gov. Snyder on the issue. The two organizations played a major role in the push to make Michigan a right-to-work state.
Snyder brushed off the dissension in a video interview with MLive.com.
"When you find any issue, most issues, we find some people that disagree," he said. "So the main question is, you do it in a respectful fashion, you understand that people have different perspectives, but you keep focused on solving what's the next problem we can take on and keep moving Michigan forward."