Senate approves Marleau bill to establish MiHealth Marketplace website

LANSING–The Michigan Senate on Thursday passed a measure that would lower health insurance prices and expand choice and flexibility for every resident, said sponsor Sen. Jim Marleau, R-Lake Orion.

Senate Bill 693 would establish the MiHealth Marketplace, a website that would foster competition for health insurance in the state.

“Competition is good for business, and it is good for residents seeking affordable health care,” said Marleau, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health Policy. “Competition drives prices down and helps ensure quality. The MiHealth Marketplace will provide competition that will empower residents choosing health insurance.”

Participation would be available to every resident, but completely voluntary. The Marketplace would be accessible online with an easy-to-use interface and would include a 24-hour phone center.

Marleau stressed that the Marketplace would not be a state agency but a separate nonprofit entity; government would not control health care in Michigan. The plan would be funded by user fee assessments on health insurance providers that choose to sell at the Marketplace.

“Not a single Michigan tax dollar will pay for the MiHealth Marketplace,” Marleau said.

Under the proposal, the Marketplace would include insurance plans for individuals and small businesses. Insurance would be available on or before Jan. 1, 2014.

Michigan is mandated by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to implement a health insurance exchange by Jan. 1, 2014. Otherwise the federal government will impose a one-size-fits-all program on the state.

Marleau said creating a Michigan-specific exchange is a much better idea than ceding authority to the federal government.

“Michigan needs to be in charge of its own destiny,” he said. “If we were to sit back and not move forward in a timely manner, the federal government would take control of Michigan health care. I will not gamble with our world-renowned care.”

SB 693 has been sent to the Michigan House of Representatives for further consideration.