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31 March 2012

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful” – Samuel Johnson, 18th century English essayist.

* In our increasingly “yes/no” political world, let’s start off today with a thought experiment about “maybe.” Settle in.

What if you were told the Legislature and governor just enacted bills to increase the health insurance costs of thousands of Michigan families — and the costs borne by publicly financed health programs such as Medicaid? This legislative action — passed with large, bipartisan majorities — could impose $100 million in new health insurance costs to provide for a small group of recipients.

OK, now what if I told you that the Legislature and governor passed laws to require insurance plans under state authority to provide coverage for autism spectrum disorder and ensure that coverage would not be denied for such a pre-existing condition?

Yes? No? Maybe?

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that autism cases are increasing rapidly.

Autism coverage mandates will be part of Michigan law.

Political efforts to require autism coverage have been highly successful around the nation.

Such coverage raises costs: “Most people — whether for or against mandates — agree that mandated health benefits increase health insurance premiums. Depending on the mandated benefit and how that benefit is defined, the increase(d) cost of a monthly premium can increase from less than 1 percent to more than 5 percent. Trying to figure out how a mandated benefit will impact an insurance premium is very complicated.”

Michigan’s Senate Fiscal Agency, reviewing the matter, found that it is quite hard to figure out a fiscal impact for an autism mandate, but, consistent with reports elsewhere, the expectation is for higher costs.

Despite what some might have you believe, dealing with public policy is rarely a matter of “yes/no” or “right/wrong.” Legislators do wrestle with complex issues.

* A Corrections Department budget advanced out of the House Appropriations subcommittee last week calls for closing the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia and moving the more than 1,200 prisoners there, possibly to a privately owned facility in Baldwin. The House budget would spend $28 million more than the Senate version, and be more than what MDOC receives this year. It is, however, less than what Gov. Rick Snyder proposed:

* A poll question commissioned by the National Federation of Independent Business and the Associated Builders and Contracorts of Michigan found a substantial majority looking favorably on Right to Work:

* If I’m reading this correctly, a state rep in South Carolina showed up in the House chamber without a coat and tie (a dress code faux pas). He was instructed to leave — which he took to mean that he had lost his district in redistricting. He has not cast a vote in the House since Jan. 18. As the TV networks have learned, reality is stranger than fiction:

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