The state Senate has overwhelmingly passed a plan to overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. On its last day in session before the November election, the state Senate voted 33-to-4 to turn Blue Cross Blue Shield into a customer-owned non-profit.
The state’s largest health insurer guarantees coverage for people with preexisting conditions, making it the state’s so-called “insurer of last resort.” Some say the overhaul is a reaction to the federal Affordable Care Act, which will require all insurers accept preexisting conditions. But supporters say that’s not the case and that the legislation has does not depend on the federal health reforms survival after November.
“There is absolutely no reference to the Affordable Care Act in this legislation. We are not doing this in response to the Affordable Care Act,” says bill sponsor Joe Hune.
Hune says the move will even the playing field for all health insurers.
Supporters also say the legislation has nothing to do with the federal Affordable Care Act, and does not depend on its survival after November.
“We are, in these two bills, setting up an interesting path,” he says. “An interesting path for an ever-changing insurance market here in Michigan.”
Senator Patrick Colbeck was one of the four Senators to vote against the bills. He says the timing is wrong with the election just around the corner.
“We’re going to be riding a little roller coaster on the definition of what our healthcare industry is going to look like,” he says. “I do not want job providers holding off on making decisions about hiring people as a result of uncertainty in the healthcare marketplace.”
State Attorney General Bill Schuette had criticized the plan, saying it could jeopardize healthcare coverage for seniors. He now says protections are in place, and the legislation is a “step in the right direction.”
The package will likely face more resistance in the House when the Legislature returns in November.