Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently signed an eight-bill package into law to ensure provisions from the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, remain accessible for low-income families in the face of ongoing legal threats.
Together, the new laws prevent health insurers from denying coverage to members of the LGBTQ+ community and those with preexisting conditions. They also allow children 25 or under to remain on their parent’s plan and require insurance plans to provide coverage of services such as hospitalization, maternity care and mental health treatment.
The bills — House Bills 4619-4623 and Senate Bills 356-358 — were introduced by House and Senate Democrats in May, and Whitmer identified them in August as one of Democratic lawmakers’ top priorities going into the fall session. The bills received bipartisan support in the Legislature.
State Rep. Reggie Miller, a bill sponsor, pointed out that prior to implementation of the Affordable Care Act, insurance providers could deem certain care too expensive.
“This is yet another wrong that Michigan Democrats have corrected,” Miller said in a statement.
Enacted in 2010 under then-President Barack Obama, the Affordable Care Act was intended to make quality health insurance accessible for low-income families through tax subsidies and Medicaid expansion. Michigan’s Medicaid program has around 995,000 beneficiaries as of Oct. 16.
The Committee to Protect Health Care, an advocacy group of medical professionals, wrote a letter to the Michigan House Insurance and Financial Services Committee in June that said access to affordable health care can prevent patients from developing serious health conditions.
“Without it, people forgo needed screenings and treatments, allowing health conditions to worsen and become more painful and difficult to treat. People are then forced to be treated in hospitals and emergency rooms, adding enormous costs to our health care system,” the letter reads.
Similarly, the nonpartisan Michigan League for Public Policy wrote to the committee in June expressing a lack of confidence in the federal government’s handling of the health care system.
“We cannot leave it to the federal government to continue these protections. We’ve seen time after time the assault against our health care system, and we expect these challenges to continue,” the letter reads. “The whims of the Court—or whoever is in power federally—should not dictate whether these protections will stand, and it is within our state policymakers’ authority and duty to protect the health, educational, and economic well-being of Michiganders.”
Since its implementation, there have been over 2,000 legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act. It is “the most challenged statute in American history,” according to an article published in 2020 by the Georgetown Law Journal.
Whitmer’s office said the recent bill signings will preserve the Affordable Care Act at the state level even if the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the law.
But for the new laws enacted in the state, a case currently on the docket for the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Braidwood Management Inc. v. Becerra, could have put 2.1 million Michiganders at risk of losing full coverage of preventative services, according to analysis by the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency. In March, a federal judge struck down a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires insurers and employers to cover preventative services for free, including cancer screenings, health counseling and HIV drugs.
Legal and health experts believe the case is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to repealing abortion rights, the six justices appointed by Republican presidents have been responsible for ending affirmative action in higher education and weakening laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. If the case goes to the Supreme Court, the conservative majority could overturn the Affordable Care Act.