LANSING — State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) announced at a press conference today that he is introducing legislation to create the MiCare program, which would bring universal single-payer health coverage to Michigan. Rep. Rabhi was joined at today’s press conference by other Democratic representatives and health care advocates from around the state, including the Michigan Nurses Association.

“Health care is a human right, and every Michigander should have the freedom to access it without facing bankruptcy,” Rep. Rabhi said. “MiCare is a way for us to come together as a state to cover everyone. We can, and will, save money while improving health outcomes for all.”

MiCare would be the first publicly administered and publicly funded state-wide health care system in the nation, providing every Michigan resident comprehensive benefits for physical, dental and mental health. The plan would provide this enhanced coverage at an out-of-pocket cost reduction for average Michigan residents who would see premiums, co-pays and deductibles eliminated. MiCare would reduce the overall price of health insurance in Michigan by reducing billing costs to providers, eliminating insurance company profits, consolidating overhead administrative costs and leveraging the buying power of a single payer to negotiate prices. The plan would save an estimated $20 billion in the first year.

“It is shameful that so many people can’t afford the care they need or are driven into bankruptcy just to pay for treatment to stay alive,” said John Armelagos, RN, president of the Michigan Nurses Association. “For too long, insurance companies and other corporate interests have been allowed to hold health care hostage with their relentless drive for profits. A single-payer system is the only way to ensure health care as a human right for all, not a privilege for the few.”

In the MiCare system, health care providers would remain independent, and patients would be able to pick among participating providers. MiCare would be funded through a combination of progressive taxes and existing health care funding. The funding proposal would ask the most affluent Michiganders to pay their fair share through a graduated income tax and capital gains tax. Instead of the exorbitant costs, stress and uncertainty of premiums, deductibles, co-insurance and other out-of-pocket payments, working families would pay a small and simple progressive payroll tax designed to save real money on their overall health expenses. Large and medium employers would pay a payroll tax set at a level lower than the current average employer expenditures for employee health care, saving many employers money immediately.

“MiCare will be a huge advantage for attracting businesses to Michigan and boosting entrepreneurship,” Rep. Rabhi said. “Last year, employer contributions for health insurance averaged $5,477 per single employee and $13,049 for family coverage. That’s on top of an average $1,200 to $5,700 cost to employees. We can’t wait for someone else to fix this; it is time for us to save ourselves from a system that for too long has placed an unnecessary burden on everyday Michiganders.”