The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has the potential to bring necessary improvements to Michigan’s health care system. But gridlock in the state House of Representatives threatens to hold up implementation of the bill, which will bring improved medical coverage to Michigan residents. House Republicans are stalling legislation pushed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder that would create a Michigan health insurance exchange as mandated by federal law. The GOP majority should stop dragging its feet on passing this beneficial law. Failure to pass this legislation would force Michigan to adopt a federally managed exchange program instead of a system unique to Michigan’s needs.

In March 2010, President Barack Obama fulfilled a key campaign promise by signing major health care reforms into law. Among other initiatives, the reform package calls for each state to create a unique health insurance exchange, offering a private marketplace with a variety of plans for consumers to choose from. In Michigan, approximately 500,000 residents would use the exchange to buy insurance. The state must approve legislation to create an exchange marketplace. There’s no reason for House Republicans to continue delaying. Health care interest groups within the state, including Michigan Consumers for Health care and AARP of Michigan, are pushing for immediate approval of the plan.

Both Snyder and state Senate Republicans support the measure, but House Republicans are delaying the bill, hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will rule the health care act unconstitutional. Members of the House should follow their counterparts in the Senate and approve the bill. A decision from the Supreme Court, even if it were to limit parts of PPACA, may not be handed down until the summer. State leadership in Lansing can’t put off passing the bill for that long. A local insurance exchange is vital for Michigan now, not later.

Continued delays put the state at risk of losing the opportunity to develop its own distinctive healthcare exchange. If legislation is stalled until after Jan. 1, 2013, the state will lose control of nearly $10 million in federal funding. Failing to meet the deadline is unacceptable for the people of Michigan and state insurance providers.

Passing on the option for an exchange set up by Michigan legislators will limit choices for consumers because local providers could likely be left out in favor of larger national firms — meaning less competitive and specific insurance options for Michigan consumers. In order to ensure that Michiganders receive the best coverage, the exchange should be managed on the state level.

With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration took a major step towards ensuring access to health care for all Americans. Millions of uninsured Americans will now receive competitive coverage and treatment. Republicans in the state House are putting politics before their constitutents. They should abandon attempts to postpone this important legislation and move forward with the creation of a Michigan health insurance exchange.

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