Michigan Republicans Have Been Caught on Tape Talking About How They Want To Cut Your Health Care.

Top Michigan Republicans don't believe maternity care needs to be covered in health care plans. They don't even believe people with pre-existing conditions like cancer, asthma and diabetes deserve protections. And they plan to get rid of these protections the minute they can.


People with pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease are protected in today’s health care plans. So is maternity care. Republicans want to remove these guaranteed protections, allowing insurance companies to drop these coverages and cause costs to skyrocket when you get sick. Check out what Republicans have said about their plans for your health care.

Republicans caught on tape:

Bill Schuette   Jason Sheppard   Ken Horn   Jeff Noble   Joseph Bellino   Diana Farrington   Chris Afendoulis   Mike McCready   Tom Barrett  Curt Vanderwall   Jim Tedder   Brandt Iden   Ben Frederick   Julie Alexander

Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette at Crystal Gardens in Southgate

CITIZEN: I know this is more federal, but health care, the Senate health care. I’m a young person and I have to pay for my own health care, and this whole essential health benefits thing coming with Obamacare is really making me pay a lot more, because I’m paying for maternity care, I —

SCHUETTE: Which is stupid.

CITIZEN: Yeah, it’s really dumb. And my dad even before the ACA was saying he was able to have choice and was able to save like a few hundred dollars by not paying for maternity care and a few other things. So don’t you think it would be better if we were able and myself were able to have choice in what I’m covering?

SCHUETTE: Absolutely. This is about you choosing, it’s about removing the penalties that the government punishes you because you don’t want to join a lousy system that's cratering. So you need to have choice, and freedom, decision-making, and not being penalized by a tax, and you get to determine who your doctor is instead of some bureaucrat in the corner.

CITIZEN: Right, yeah, I—

SCHUETTE: That’s where I stand on that. I’m hopeful some changes can be made, and you know, you gotta — this isn’t the only time we are going to get a bite at this apple, so we gotta get as much as we can, make some changes and continue to work on it.

State Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance) at his Coffee Hours at the Great Lakes Eatery & Pub in Dundee

CITIZEN: I don’t like paying for maternity care though, as a guy.

SHEPPARD: Yeah, that’s dumb. I mean it’s dumb, I get it. There’s dumb things that we do. It just needs to be fixed to where, how it looks I don’t know. You almost have to reverse the whole system.

State Rep. Jeff Noble (R-Plymouth) at his Office Hours at Plymouth Township Hall

CITIZEN: I don’t know exactly where I stand with health care, but personally, I think something probably should be changed or tweaked to make it better. But one thing that I keep hearing about is, that seems like to me a good way to lower costs is getting rid of the 10 mandatory things that have to be covered under health insurance plans the way that it is now, and letting people pick and choose what kind of health care they want. So if a guy or a young woman who doesn’t want to have a child doesn’t want to get maternity care coverage then they don’t have to, if you know you’re probably not going to get diabetes you don’t have to get diabetes coverage. I was just kind of curious on your opinion with that.

NOBLE: I’m a big advocate for personal choice. I don’t think that anyone should be riding herd on the people. In this situation I’m just like you, the idea of a single man having to have mandatory maternity coverage just seemed kind of silly to me, and I don’t think that a woman should necessarily have to have coverage to cover prostate exams. So to me that just seems kind of foolish and common sense would say let’s give a person the opportunity to pick and choose what it is they’d like to have covered.

So to answer your question, I don’t like anything that’s forced down, pushed down our throats or anything that’s trying to be mandated to people. We have that opportunity and that responsibility, and quite frankly, if we make a mistake then we’re the ones that are accountable for that mistake. If we choose not to get a particular coverage and get the illness, then we’re the ones that have to deal with that. 

State Rep. Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe) at his Office Hours at Tim Horton's in Monroe

CITIZEN: I just have a question, it’s kind of more of a hypothetical, so sorry to take away time from — and I don’t know a ton about this, but it’s about health care. One thing I am just curious about your opinion with this. It’s obvious you guys were talking about super-expensive and one thing I have heard, especially with Republicans talk about is getting rid of what they are calling essential health benefits so like if you are a guy you don’t have to pay for maternity care because you are not going to get pregnant and if you are a woman you won’t have to pay for male-specific services and you kind of get to pick things that would specifically affect you. I was just kind of curious about what your opinion is on that?

BELLINO: When Obamacare came out or the ACA I would buy my own insurance, I had a daughter in college and I chose not to take pregnancy coverage, saved me $300 a month. I made that choice.

State Rep. Diana Farrington (R-Utica) at her Office Hours at the Utica Public Library

CITIZEN: Something that I’ve been following that I’ve been interested in and just wanted to get your take on it is everything going on with health care right now at the federal level, which I know is a little bit different than your jurisdiction is. But I was wondering first off just what you thought of the new health care bill.

And then also, one thing that I’ve heard people talking about that to me, as someone that’s probably going to have to get insurance soon, is right now there’s those 10 mandatory things that you have to have on your health insurance. And I’ve heard a way to lower costs would be to kind of get rid of that, so if you’re an older person you don’t have to pay for maternity care, or if you’re a younger person — I don’t want to have a baby right now, so I shouldn’t necessarily have to pay for it. Or if you’re young and healthy with no history of diabetes, you don’t have to pay for diabetes care. I was just kind of wondering what you thought of that and just the new health care bill.

FARRINGTON: I think it would really help keep costs down. Obviously an elderly person is not going to get pregnant. Yeah, I think there could be choices. I can see how that would bring health care costs down.

State Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) at his Office Hours at the Clinton Coney Island

CITIZEN: So it is pretty apparent to me that health care needs to be fixed. In general it is just a whole hot mess. And I think a good place to start would be with the, I think they’re called the essential health benefits, there’s like 10 of them. A good example would be that I am a young, healthy woman who has no plans of having a child any time soon, but I would still be expected to pay for maternity care. Or that I’m also a young, healthy person with no history of diabetes in my entire family, and I am still expected to pay for coverage for diabetes. Like I’m paying for things I am not going to use, I’m not going to need, and I feel like if I were just able to choose what I would like to have coverage for, things that I might actually need, it would really help lower the cost overall. I guess I just wanted your thoughts on that.

ZORN: You’re absolutely right. Unfortunately that’s a federal law.

CITIZEN: Right, I mean, I just figured states start the change.

ZORN: I have talked to our Congressman about that and I know they had, it was happening in the works, I don’t know where it’s at or what the end result was. But they recognized that it was a problem, that you should be able to pick and choose what type of coverage you want. Most of that came because of the Obamacare and depending what they do with the remainder of that, in probably will have something to do with what you’re thinking. I am fully in support of that because there’s people like you say that can’t get pregnant anymore, but yet they have to pay for that coverage. And it’s silly that they have to do that.

Dale Zorn on Eliminating Protections for People with Pre-Existing Conditions at his Coffee Hours at Agua Dulce Coffee & Tea

CITIZEN: So, I wanted to talk today about, I am a little bit concerned about health care in my family, so my mom is a single mom, and she has to purchase health care and I —

ZORN: Federal health care?

CITIZEN: Yeah, through Obamacare. And I just, I want to ask you about like essential health benefits, because I’ve been looking into it more, and I don’t understand why she has to purchase essential health benefits, like in a plan, it covers maternity care — why is she paying for maternity care? She’s not having any more kids, like, you know, why is she paying for pediatric care when none of her kids are that are, and what can be done about that?

ZORN: I understand. I’m going to sound like I’m passing the buck, and that’s not how I want to sound. This is a federal issue. And I’ve heard this same thing, over and over, and I suggest that you give your Congressman or Senator, Senator federal, on the federal side, and talk to them about it. I can tell you that Congressman Walberg has, I’ve heard him speak about this issue in the past, and I think he knows a lot more about it than I do, because I’m a state Senator, not a federal Senator. So, I would really suggest you talk to him, to meet him or [inaudible].

CITIZEN: Okay, is there anything that can be done about that at the state level?

ZORN: Not on a state level, because it’s a federal law. We can’t, we can’t circumvent federal law. But it is a problem, and you’re absolutely right that, why should we pay for something that we’re not going to use? I’m with you 100%. 

State Rep. Chris Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids) at his Office Hours at Red Hot Inn in Grand Rapids

CITIZEN: Mine was a little hypothetical. Me and my dad were just talking about it the other day in regards to health care. We’ve been — I’ve been hearing, my dad’s been hearing, we’ve been talking about just a way to help lower costs. So, for example, it has to do with essential health benefits, I guess. So for example, I’m a guy, I don’t need to be paying for maternity care or a woman doesn’t need to be paying for a prostate exam or something that has to do with males. I don’t have diabetes, I don’t need to be paying for diabetes coverage. So I guess my question is — bringing the cost down is really — having people pick their own health care plans to whatever suit their best needs. I don’t need maternity care, I could save a decent amount of money not paying that. So really choosing what I need for my health plan. So, really what are your thoughts on giving people that kind of choice?

AFENDOULIS: [...] When you see people get — here’s an example, then I gotta get to these other folks. My dad — he was going to die. His intestines had shut down. He’s on Medicare, we talked to the doctor and they said, “Well, we can do a surgery and take everything out and put bags in, he’ll probably die anyway and this and that.” We’re like, “No, don’t do it.” Now, how many families would say “Do it. We need to do whatever we can to save dad, even if it’s going to give him another or two weeks, a month.” If we had said yes, I can’t imagine what it would have cost. It wouldn’t have cost us anything, but it would have cost the federal — would have cost Medicare a quarter of a million dollars. You know? So the question is, people are afraid, first of all to die — and it’s really emotional. But you sit there and go, “Jeez.” Now if they said to you, “Tim, your dad — we can do this surgery on him but it’s going to cost you $50,000.” You’d go, “Dad’s had a good life.” I mean you make those kind of value judgements and it’s really hard. But it’s just an example where people get emotional at the end. We spend a lot of our money on end of life care.”

Note: This was a long exchange. To listen to the full exchange, click here.

State Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) at his Office Hours at Chesaning Township Hall

CITIZEN: Well, what do you think, I know people have been proponents of being able, you know, younger people being able to stay on until they are 26?

HORN: I would get rid of that. 

CITIZEN: You would get rid of that?

HORN: Yeah. [...] But there are a number of ways you can handle it, but I want to start treating young people like adults when they turn 18 years old. That’s one of my goals. You know first thing in the system, at 16 you can drive, at 18 you can vote, you can go join the military, at 21 you can drink, but 26 that’s when you become an adult? But that’s when you are out on your own? I want to make it clear here there always has to be some kind of right to adulthood at some point, I think I would rather have them drinking younger and getting their driver's licenses at older ages and so when they turn 21 they go, “Yee haw, now I can drive” instead of having them drinking for the first time because it gets out of hand.

Note: This was a long exchange. To listen to the full exchange, click here.

Ken Horn on Eliminating Pregnancy Coverage, Pre-Existing Conditions Protections at Office Hour at Chesaning Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

CITIZEN: So health insurance seems to be going — it’s getting more expensive, even in spite of all the health care things that we’ve tried to do in the country. So do you think that maybe we could have a more a la carte approach? I’m 65, I’m never gonna get pregnant, obviously. Do I need maternity care? Should we force everybody to pay for maternity care?

HORN: You might be onto something here. I want to apply this to all our services. A la carte menu. I think that’s what it’s going to come to.

State Rep. Mike McCready (R-Bloomfield Twp.) at his Office Hours at Bloomfield Township Public Library

MCCREADY: So you know, we saw some situations there where people say well now we should go in and stop the pharmacies from charging so much, but really if you have an open market, where you have other manufacturers that can make a drug similar to that, or generic drug, that’s usually what’s gonna help keep the prices down. Now if a company like Pfizer comes out and creates a new drug, new to the market, that’s a life saving drug that they have a patent on, they’re gonna reap some very good benefits for that and that’s how our market’s set up.  

CITIZEN: Right. So free market thinking, definitely. So if you — say free market wide, it would regulate if you would let the companies, drug companies, whatever do their pricing for this and that.  

MCCREADY: Yeah. That’s true.  

CITIZEN: And so don’t you think we should probably, a good example is cancer drugs or even Epipens, because that was in the news recently.  

MCCREADY: Well, the Epipen situation is kind of interesting, because you’re right. The schools were all forced to buy the Epipens--  

MCCREADY: [Conversation is paused, as more people come into the coffee hour.] The legislature, back in my freshman year, passed a bill to have at least two Epipens in every school. Well, when they did that, epipens were selling for lower dollars and now they’re like $600, right. And so it was a mandate where schools had to go buy them. And so it also came out that Epipens only had like a two year shelf life and then they needed to be replaced. So that has become a real issue, that they had a high demand, raised their prices, and that had something to do with it. And we talked about maybe funding the schools more to help subsidize some of that cost, versus getting in to trying to hold down the pharmaceutical prices.  

CITIZEN: So you’re saying we should more so let the free market and pharmaceutical prices stay what they are and then stop trying to do the price fixing.  

MCCREADY: Right.  

CITIZEN: And maybe support the schools more in that way.  

MCCREADY: Yep, right. 

State Rep. Curt Vanderwall (R-Ludington) at his Office Hours at Leelanau County Government Center

CITIZEN: There could be a major health insurance reform happen soon, if the Senate passes the bill. We don’t know what it looks like, obviously. I wanted to get your thoughts about — and this is not hypotheticals or anything — but just your feelings about if we go to a health care reform where let’s say a young man decides that he doesn’t want to buy maternity insurance, that he can opt out of that. Or a young person whose healthy says I shouldn’t have to pay for diabetes insurance. And it’s more of a pick and choose kind of thing that the Republicans have kind of talked about. What are your thoughts around that? Because if that bill passes it would come to Michigan and it would be put in your hands to align our rules around insurance around that — to align it with the federal government.

VANDERWALL: [...] When it comes to the federal side, when it comes to health insurance, here’s what’s very interesting. I think people like myself and my wife should be able to opt out of maternity, because if we have another baby now [laughs]. Let me tell you, I’m scared to death of what would happen. We need to be careful that — because too many times we also have the Russian roulette and then the person who needs it most doesn’t have it. I really got to see what that is gonna — the structure.

Note: This was a long exchange. To listen to the full exchange, click here.

State Rep. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) at his Coffee Hours at Riverside Cafe in Bellevue

CITIZEN: Like I’m 65, I think it’s kinda stupid I have to pay for maternity care.  

BARRETT: I mean there’s a number of people I’ve spoken to that have said that they had elements of their health care that they would not have otherwise purchased on their own. If they were allowed to build their own plan for themselves — 

CITIZEN: So you think it should be more a la carte? 

BARRETT: I think that whatever we can do to allow people to make their own choices for themselves in the health care space for the needs of their family is something that I think is a good thing. I think we ought to trust people to know what the needs of their family are better than the government.  

CITIZEN: How would we do that, though? Like you go into a restaurant, so we got a menu here. So would I be able to pick and choose what I want to cover? 

BARRETT: I think usually health care plans pre-Obamacare got a generally like — It wasn’t truly a la carte, like I’m gonna buy coverage for a knee replacement, eye glasses, and emergency room care. It was more like you had a list of standard things that were covered by a certain amount, had a certain copay value. Other things may or may not have been covered by that. Most of them had a catastrophic coverage, if you were catastrophically injured, you know, fell at home, had a heart attack, needed to go to rehabilitation for that, stuff of that sort. But after Obamacare, there was a whole bunch of other stuff that was added in that was mandated on people. They may not have wanted or maybe they did want.

State Rep. Jim Tedder (R-Clarkson) at his Office Hours at Waterford Township Public Library

CITIZEN: The first one is related to health care. And I am just curious about your opinions on this. Something I think kind of needs to be done with health care, the way it is now, it needs to be changed somehow, but I am not sure how. But one thing I have been hearing like a lot of people talking about specifically more on the conservative end is getting rid of essential health benefits. So if you are a guy, you don’t have to pay for maternity care, if you are a young, healthy, person who doesn’t have diabetes in their family, you do not have to pay for that. Kind of like picking what you want a la carte. And having that be a way to lower prices. What are your feelings on that?

TEDDER: In general, I support that. I think one of the things that we’re missing in our system and I personally believe this is driving up costs for most people, is that you’re not giving people a choice to kind of develop and hand pick their plans. Even all of our needs change over time. Like when you are young, a major medical plan is probably what you want, but you don’t want to go bankrupt over an injury.

CITIZEN: Right, but I wouldn’t necessarily need care, the same care as someone in like their seventies.

TEDDER: [...] I would say that’s one of the areas I’ve always found frustrating. Why is a man, a single man paying for maternity coverage? I don’t think he is going to be having a baby anytime soon. And there is other things, prenatal care, and I forget all of them, there was like 10 non-negotiables. And I am going to guess the federal level will probably take away those [inaudible].

CITIZEN: So you would be for something like having that type of choice?

TEDDER: I would be for more of a customized plan. And I would say, if someone does has diabetes or congenital heart failure, it’ll be more expensive.

State Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo) at his Office Hours at Feed the World Café in Kalamazoo

CITIZEN: I had just a couple of questions about health care. One of which, I was just curious what you thought about the new Senate health care bill that came out yesterday. And then also and just more specifically, and I guess this is more of a hypothetical type thing — but one of the things that I’ve been reading about that would lower the cost of health care and health insurance that sounds to me like a good idea but I want your take on it, is letting people kind of pick and choose a la carte what they want instead of having the mandatory things. So an older person wouldn’t need to pay for maternity care. I’m a younger, healthy person who has no history of diabetes in my family, I wouldn’t necessarily have to pay for diabetes care. I was just kind of wondering what you thought about that and then also the new Senate bill.

IDEN: [...] In terms of being able to pick out, absolutely. You should be able to. That makes a lot of sense. We know that across the board health care needs are different for every individual and based upon what they’re looking for and what makes the most sense.

State Rep. Ben Frederick (R-Owosso) at his Office Hours at Perry City Hall.

CITIZEN: So health care costs keep going up, and I’m just wondering if, I know it’s mostly a federal issue, but is there something the state can do to maybe give us more choices? Like I’m an almost 65-year-old guy, I don’t need maternity care, sounds kind of stupid for me to be having to pay for maternity care or my wife doesn’t have diabetes you know that kind of thing. Why should she have to pay? So is there something that can be done on the state level to address those kinds of things?

FREDERICK: I think you’re hitting on some of them as far as the mandated coverages need to be looked at.


CITIZEN: I mean, I feel like I should have more choices as far as you know, I don’t know if I could cut out my maternity care payment. I don’t know if that, I mean I know that’s not line-itemed in the policies, but I kinda feel like I should have more choices about you know how my health care works, how my, what’s covered. I mean I guess I don’t think I should have to pay necessarily for maternity coverage.


Note: This was a long exchange. The full exchange is here.

State Rep. Julie Alexander (R-Jackson) at her Office Hours at the Jackson County Tower Building in Jackson

CITIZEN: One thing I keep hearing about is the essential health benefits and how one way to possibly lower costs would be if you got rid of those ten mandatory health things so like you’re able to kind of pick and choose what you wanted. So like if you’re a guy, you don’t necessarily need maternity care, or if you’re just like an 18 year old girl who doesn’t want a child, you don’t necessarily need maternity care, or if you’re like a young person who doesn’t have a history of diabetes, you don’t really need diabetes coverage, and yeah. It just seemed like, to me it seemed like a good way to kind of lower costs of healthcare if you kind of let people pick and choose what they wanted.

ALEXANDER: Kind of like a la carte?

CITIZEN: Yeah, yeah. I was kind of wondering what you thought of that. Because there is a lot of controversy around that.

ALEXANDER: Well, I think we can both agree something has to be done. As far as what I’m hearing in Lansing right now, everything is really on hold [muffled], but I think that those are all, I personally think they’re all good ideas. You’re empowering people to choose what works for them and modify the cost as well.

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