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Aug 27, 2013 8:27 PM by Eric Ross

GOP-led Mich. Senate approves Medicaid expansion

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The state Senate narrowly voted Tuesday night to make more low-income adults eligible for Medicaid, a major step toward Michigan becoming the 24th state to embrace a key component of the federal health care law.

The Republican-led chamber, on a 20-18 vote, approved expanding Medicaid to nearly a half-million Michigan adults. Some 320,000 may be eligible starting in 2014 if the state secures federal approval in time.

The legislation now returns to the Republican-led House, which passed an earlier version of the bill in June. The chamber is expected to pass the current version next week, sending it to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Senate didn't get enough votes to give the bill immediate effect, which may complicate how quickly the expansion can occur.

The Republican governor supports Medicaid expansion. Six other states with Republican governors have already agreed to expand their Medicaid programs.

Medicaid covers roughly one in five Michigan residents, and the expansion could cut Michigan's 1 million-plus uninsured by nearly half.

Under the federal health care overhaul, states can expand Medicaid to adults making up to 133 percent of the poverty level, or about $15,300 for an individual. The U.S. government is offering to cover the entire cost initially and 90 percent down the line.

Uninsured residents with higher incomes will be covered by a new federal insurance market offering taxpayer-subsidized private plans.

The Senate version of the bill includes GOP-written requirements that new enrollees pay some of their medical expenses after being enrolled in Medicaid for six months and pick up more costs after four years. The enrollees could lower their costs by not smoking or adhering to other healthy behaviors.

The newly eligible also would no longer be covered if savings from the expansion do not cover the state's cumulative costs in the future.

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