Michigan Health Care Benefits Are Threatened for Some by the Extremist Right “Morals Police” Legislation Passed in the House
This article is based on an article by reporter Dawn Wolfe Gutterman from the May 4, 2006 Between the Lines newspaper. http://zzz.pridesource.com/article.shtml?article=18562
The Republican controlled Michigan House of Representatives passed two bills on April 26 that could have a terrible impact on women’s reproductive and contraceptive rights, health care for AIDS patients, and for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Transgender persons.
House bills 4745 and 4746, if adopted by the senate and become law, would permit commercial health insurance companies, health maintenance organizations (HMO’s), and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan to decline to provide health care coverage for such medical conditions as AIDS, or to pay for reproductive and contraceptive services, drugs and devices for women. Coverage could also be declined for hormonal treatments required by transgender individuals, or any condition or remedy it would find objectionable basing its refusal on its own particular “morals,” “ethics,” or “religious beliefs,” as defined in its articles of incorporation, bylaws or an adopted mission statement.
Insurers would also be exempt from patient lawsuits that could result from refusal of coverage under the “morals” exemption.
Eleven Democrats joined the Republicans in passing these two bills on a 68 to 38 vote that were introduced by Rep. Scott Hummel (R-District 93).
“Clearly to me, some members of the legislature continue to be involved as morality police – I think, in this case, that it’s really dangerous and a slippery slope because now we’re entangling morals with the ability to get insurance coverage. That’s so dangerous,” said Representative Paul Condino (D- District 35).
Governor Jennifer Granholm believes that the bills would move insurance coverage in Michigan in the wrong direction at a time when the nation is struggling to expand health care coverage and access to those without it, according to her spokesperson, Heidi Watson.
ACLU staff attorney, Jay Kaplan, said in opposition to the legislation, “You would think that with all of Michigan’s pressing problems – the economy, gas prices, roads that need to be fixed, and so many young people leaving our state, that Michigan’s House of Representatives would have more pressing priorities than passing bills that would allow health insurance providers and health care corporations to deny coverage and refuse to provide services that conflict with their ‘moral’ or ‘religious’ beliefs. “
Two years ago a similar set of bills was passed in the House, but died in the state Senate.
Rep. Chris Kolb (D-District 53) in opposition to the bills said, “In many ways these are aimed at women’s reproductive freedoms, but they impact everybody’s lives, and not enough is being done and said in opposition to these kinds of legislation. They’re in the same line as the other conscientious objector bills – really turning the health care equation upside down. Instead of addressing the health care needs of the patient first, they put everybody else’s moral values first.“
These bills now go to the state Senate. Contact your state Senator by going to http://senate.michigan.gov/ to reach your senator’s contact information.