Today, Michigan is recovering from an ice storm. Health policy committees are canceled, so we have a minute to think about how Lansing “iced” us with inflation and subsidies last term.

State legislators helped land us here – and they can help get us out.

Inflation & State Health policy

We all know what inflation has done to the price of eggs, but what do Michigan health policy bills have to do with it?

As I scored 2021-2022 state bills, I found nine Appropriation (spending) bills related to healthcare. That includes two annual state budgets, hundreds of pages long, and seven other bills carrying a boatload of supplemental spending. All that, just to spend the flood of Healthcare on Icefederal COVID dollars pouring into Michigan from Washington, D.C.

Tens of billions of dollars dumped into Michigan’s economy are now contributing to price inflation impacting our lives. Could we not see this coming and slow it down?

Sure, I understand there are difficulties.

What could Michigan Legislators do with COVID funds?

Refuse the money? It would just go to other states. Michigan would be poorer, without reducing inflation.

Yes, federal rules restricted the funds. For instance, ARPA funds were not to be used to reduce taxes. However, some states pushed back, and at least one succeeded in court.

Of course, some of the money went for good purposes. For example, Medicaid patient caregivers received a long overdue raise. Beside providing direct care to those who desperately need it, this spending likely eased chronic shortages to some extent.

Legislators also put some funds on ice for a rainy day.

However, the great majority of the funds went to activities the state should not be doing at all: growing government and intruding into the private sector. For example, the current year budget transfer of $33,387,315,600 ($33.4Bn) to MDHHS, increases the power of an already-massive department. The legislature tasked MDHHS with distributing hundreds of millions of dollars in targeted grants to universities, wig-makers, CT Scaners, diverse youth residences, and many more.

Accurately called “Picking winners and losers,” such state handouts may serve political interests. However, they stack the deck against access to flexible care. Perhaps even worse, they bypass the people’s voice in market competition. When we vote with our cash, we force businesses and institutions to serve us well in order to earn trust.

The Least Legislators Could have Done: a little ice water

Resolutions are more powerful than we think. Even though they do not carry the same force as law, they serve as a great promotional tool. They gain headlines and shape public opinion on many issues.

True, they often treat light topics. (Optimist Day, anyone?) However, many resolutions are more serious. Last term, for example, one even addressed federal health policy.

Michigan House Resolution 157, September 14, 2021: To urge the members of Congress to take action to mitigate the depletion of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds.

I read through the list of resolutions the Michigan legislature proposed last term – all 615 of them – to be sure. None addressed federal spending.

We might be tempted to blame legislative weakness, but we all share the responsibility. Strong representative government requires resolve from informed citizens and legislators, talking to each other.

— This article is part of HEAL Michigan: Health policy Education and Accountability for Legislators. Support the growing conversation – Donate or become a Sponsor today!

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