Governor visits Keweenaw

HOUGHTON – Gov. Rick Snyder came to Houghton Wednesday during his tour of the state to promote the passage of the Healthy Michigan legislation, which, if approved, he said will give Medicaid coverage to as many as 470,000 more Michigan residents.

Snyder took a tour of GS Engineering on U.S. 41 outside Houghton, and talked with company president Glen Simula about concerns regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the increasing costs of providing health care insurance for his 60 employees.

On Tuesday, Snyder met with officials at Marquette General Hospital to talk about the legislation, which has passed in the State House of Representatives, and is currently being considered by the Senate.

Although there are some Republicans in Lansing who think if the Healthy Michigan legislation becomes law, it will add another layer of government, which Michigan residents will end up paying for, Snyder said he’s confident the bill will be passed.

“I think we’re making progress,” he said “The Senate has a work group going now. The committee has met in the Senate, so that’s positive progress.”

Snyder said he’s encouraging senators to work quickly and move forward. He’s also encouraging residents to contact their senators about the legislation to tell them to vote yes on it.

“Healthy Michigan is something we shouldn’t wait on too long,” he said. “We have so many Michiganders we can help. The number is expected to be as large as 470,000 people in our state.”

Snyder said Michigan has been a role model for Medicaid efficiency.

“We run (Medicaid) better than most programs across the country,” he said. “Our administrative costs are less than 1 percent.”

Snyder said the state has an unmanaged, uncontrolled health care system, which requires many people without insurance to use the hospital emergency rooms for non-emergency health issues.

“That’s not a good quality of life for anyone,” he said.

Michigan residents end up paying for the non-emergency visits to emergency rooms in the form of higher insurance premiums, which Snyder said the proposed legislation will help alleviate.

“Healthy Michigan is just a smart thing,” he said. “Let’s just get it done.”

Snyder said he would like the Senate to vote on and pass the Healthy Michigan legislation by the end of the summer, because it’s going to take a great deal of work to get the expected 470,000 people on the program by the end of the year.

For most situations, the Affordable Care Act takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.

“We need federal waivers,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. I want to get busy to get the program set up and run the best it could.”

As for paying for the cost of operation of the Healthy Michigan plan, Snyder said Michigan workers who would be part of the plan would pay a small percent of their income toward the premium.

“They can offset that cost by keeping themselves healthy, which I think is great motivation,” he said.

GS Engineering President Glen Simula said full-time operation in September 2002.

“We pride ourselves on being a family-friendly, professional work environment,” he said.

“We provide very good health care for all our employees.”

Simula said the company recently received its renewal for Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the rates are expected to increase 66 to 70 percent next year.

“That’s just unsustainable for a small company like ourselves,” he said.

Simula said he thinks the Healthy Michigan Medicaid expansion is a good idea for his company and the state.

“This is positive for small businesses, for this area and really for the state of Michigan,” he said.

He thinks the passage of the Healthy Michigan legislation will help to lower health insurance premiums in Michigan, Simula said.

The company is ready for the change to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, Simula said.

The Affordable Care Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance for the employees, but Simula said he doesn’t expect to lay any workers off to fall below the 50 employee threshold.

“Our thought process is we’re going to grow,” he said.

Lynn Eliason, GS Engineering director of operations, said work on the change to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act have been going on at the company for about six months.

Eliason said the company will stay with its current medical insurance provider.

“We’re right now right in the middle of understanding what our increases would be and how we’re going to handle the increases,” she said.

On another topic, Snyder said he hasn’t formally decided if he’ll run for another term as governor, but he is considering it.

“There’s a lot more I’d like to do,” he said.