LANSING — State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) voted today against a proposal to convert Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan — which covers almost 4.4 million Michiganders — from a nonprofit health care corporation to a nonprofit mutual disability insurer. The proposals contain measures that will make it more difficult and expensive for seniors to obtain comprehensive insurance.

“Access to health care is one of the most important issues in our state, and that is especially a concern for our seniors,” Brinks said. “Many of our seniors rely on Medigap insurance to expand on the basic hospital and medical benefits of Medicare and control their out-of-pocket health care costs. But the bills voted on today could put the cost of BCBS Medigap insurance out of reach for many of them.”

The proposal ends BCBS’s obligation to offer Medigap insurance after 2016. Under a current agreement with the state’s attorney general, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan’s Medigap rates are frozen through 2016. If the insurance company does continue coverage beyond 2016, its cost could rise precipitously.

“Just getting by has become more difficult for many of our seniors who live on fixed incomes and now have a tax on pensions, IRAs and 401(k)s to contend with,” Brinks said. “Rather than making seniors worry about expanding health care costs in the future, we should be working to make health care more affordable and accessible.”

Rep. Brinks opposes putting increased financial burdens on Michigan’s seniors, who are already struggling to pay a new tax on retirement income and who have seen credits and deductions on the state income tax, such as the Homestead Property Tax Exemption Credit, reduced or eliminated.