By PAUL NATINSKY
“Dismantling the ACA would be disastrous for our state and devastating for our people,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as she launched into the healthcare portion of her 35-minute address Jan. 29 at the Capitol.

She urged legislators to pass bills currently in the system to preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions, one of the cornerstones of the ACA.
As with last year’s speech, the governor left many of the details to her budget presentation, which took place after press time.

On her website, Whitmer provides details on aspects of the ACA she would like to enshrine in state law, in case ongoing efforts in Washington to roll back ACA provisions are successful:
-Prohibit insurance companies from denying people due to a pre-existing condition.
-Prohibit insurance companies from charging women more than men for the same plan.
-Prohibit insurance companies from charging sick patients more than healthy patients and cancelling coverage when an individual gets sick.
-Prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage or charging higher rates based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of the individual seeking insurance.
-Prohibit annual caps or lifetime dollar limits. Require equitable coverage for mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

Includes the following essential health benefits:
Ambulatory patient services, birth control, emergency services, hospitalization, Immunizations, lab services, mental health and substance use disorder services, pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management and rehabilitation services and devices.

Whitmer announced she will form a task force in the next few months to address the high cost of prescription drugs focusing on transparency in pricing and lowering costs.

Five members of the Legislature will be appointed to the taskforce. The Task Force will be represented by Republicans and Democrats, the House and the Senate. The group will be charged to: examine the problem of high-costs drugs and its impact; review high cost prescription drugs and make recommendations on strategies to bring costs down; develop transparency standards to disclose how much drug companies pay for research, manufacturing, and marketing; consider policies to require pharmaceutical manufacturers to demonstrate a rationale for price increases above a certain level; examine a broad range of economic factors along the entire pharmaceutical supply chain, including spending on advertising, public research investment; and the actions of middlemen who negotiate prices. The Task Force will deliver recommendations to the governor by Aug. 15, 2020.

Whitmer vowed to cut the number of people suffering from opioid use disorder in half during the next five years on the heels of a three-fold increase in such addictions during the past decade. She claimed credit for signing a measure that expanded access to mental health and substance abuse treatment to 83,000 Michigan residents last year.

The governor addressed difficulties faced by low-income mothers, touting a coming budget proposal that would extend care for new mothers from 60 days to one year.

Whitmer made a national splash, delivering the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address Feb. 4. In her 10-minute response, the governor questioned the veracity of many of the president’s claims about healthcare.