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    Senate Bill 942 and House Bill 5542 involve health care fraud in Michigan, a topic of high interest to the state of Michigan. Due to the budget deficit and the current national debate over health care coverage, the combination of these two topics makes these two bills compelling legislative proposals. There should be little doubt that the current discussion of health care in the media as well as high public interest has emboldened the sponsors of these bills to propose this legislature in the current political climate.

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    The sponsors and co-sponsors of SB 942, as well as HB 5542 are all members of the Republican Party. Notable fiscally conservative Republicans, such as Roger Kahn, John Pappageorge (Vice-Chair of Appropriation committee) and House Minority leader Kevin Elsenhelimer, are involved with sponsoring and co-sponsoring SB 942 and HB 5542. The bills are identical, both propose a new position within the state government. The legislation calls for a new office, known as the "Office of Medicaid Inspector General," which would belong to the new position of "Medicaid Inspector General." The Medicaid Inspector General would be responsible for monitoring and reducing fraud in the Medicaid program within Michigan. This position would exhaustively entail all variations of fraud in Medicaid, ranging from constituent fraud to Doctors overcharging the state Medicaid program.

    Medicaid fraud is said to an issue that costs the State a significant amount of money. According to Attorney General Mike Cox, Michigan is estimated to lose $225-$900 million per year off of false Medicaid clams. Proponents of the bill say that the state can save $100 million per year as a direct result of the implementation of the new Inspector General office. Clearly, proponents are tackling this issue in an opportune time where public interest can be directed to a major problem (Medicaid Fraud).

    National media coverage has focused public interest on health care, and the downturn on the Michigan economy/budget clearly also has directed interest in that area as well. Kingdon's theory on policymaking would suggest that coupling of independent streams; problem recognition (in this case, Medicaid Fraud costing Michigan millions of dollars), policy proposal (two bills regarding the issue, sponsored by a large number of Republicans in both chambers of MI state legislature) and politics (state mood on health care and budget deficit) would tend to make the passage of this legislation favorable.

    There are opponents to the bill as well. Although there is not a vocal group against anti-fraud legislation pertaining to Medicaid, there are some who have raised questions about how such an office would be ran efficiently. While the bill does clarify the powers and provision involved with the new position, some nuances are still open to criticism. Opponents have asked questions such as, "Will these cases be litigated and settled under seal of the court? Will the recovery funds be placed in the general fund or go into the Office of Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Unit?" These are valid questions that question the specifics on how the office would prosecute fraud, as well as dealing with the recovered money involved. If one follows the typical political climate, it is also quite possible Democrats will disagree with certain aspects of the bills. Democrats could certainly have a strong influential shape on the bill, through Governor Granholm and the Democrat Controlled House.

    While there are still questions about the exact nature of the bill, this is not necessarily outside the norm. Often times bills are constructed and voted into law, without full details on every provision accounted for. The agency charged with the passed legislation (in this case the new Inspector General) certainly has a role in how the policy is works in the actual real-time application. Overall, it seems this proposal should be favorably received in Michigan, as the budget and health care are possibly the two most popular current political issues.

    Sources:

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2009-2010/billintroduced/Senate/pdf/2009-sIB-0942.pdf
    http://www.michiganvotes.org/2009-SB-942
    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2009-2010/billintroduced/House/pdf/2009-hIB-5542.pdf
    http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/07/west_michigan_legislator_to_pr.html

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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