You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 2:07 p.m.

Push to eliminate lifetime health care benefits for Michigan lawmakers gains steam

By Nathan Bomey

A proposal to eliminate lifetime health care benefits for Michigan state legislators is gaining traction in Lansing.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Pam Byrnes, D-Lyndon Twp., said it's time for legislators to give up their lifetime health care benefits, which start at age 55 for lawmakers with at least six years of experience.

Democrats in the House and Senate are pushing to end benefits for all state legislators, past and present, who have lifetime health care benefits.

"In this difficult economy, everyone is getting by with less and lawmakers need to share in this sacrifice," Byrnes said in a statement. "Our legislators' health care should be comparable to other Michigan workers. None of our hard-working residents get taxpayer-funded health care for life after working only six years. In fact, many workers across the state have had their health care benefits slashed or cut completely after decades of service to their employers. Michigan taxpayers should not be asked to foot the bill for these outrageous benefits."

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop told the Detroit Free Press that his party would support slashing the insurance benefits for future legislators, but not current or former lawmakers.

Ann Arbor venture capitalist Rick Snyder, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, released a statement supporting the elimination of lifetime health care benefits for legislators.

“Getting rid of the exclusive perk of lifetime health benefits for legislators would be a rare but welcome display of leadership in the midst of declining revenues and shortfalls in state government. Difficult decisions need to be made to reduce compensation costs for state employees to bring them in line with the private sector," Snyder said.

"Not only should Lansing’s career politicians get rid of their lifetime benefits, but they ought to make additional cuts into their own salaries and budgets. If our schools, public safety, local governments, businesses and families are forced to make do with less, career politicians should do the same.“

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter.



Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 10:10 a.m.

Love the mood of the state lately! Don't stop with eliminating lifetime benefits - why not a one house legislature that meets part time??? All for a new state constitution!


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 8:37 a.m.

michigan112007, Pam Byrnes is just another in a long line of politicians who are skipping from office to office in order to avoid being turfed by term limits. Now that she's installed herself at the public trough, I have no doubt that she's going to work extra hard to make sure she stays exactly where she's at: on public assistance.... er, check that... in public service for as long as possible. That doesn't have anything to do with "leadership" but rather simply requires saying what seems to get the most positive public reaction at any given moment.

The Picker

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 8:15 a.m.

They idea of a citizen legislator should be encouraged, where the average person serves, then goes back to civilian life. Politicians that serve for decades lose perspective of what the average person experiences in daily life and cannot translate that into quality governance. David, You're right the bribery, opps, money is the problem Skigrl, You are also right, our priorities are all screwed up.


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 7:55 a.m.

Picker - The legislature also had a deal with all of the kids in Michigan, the "Michigan Promise", they didn't blink an eye eliminating this plan to help our young, hard working kids get to college.

David Briegel

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 6:54 a.m.

Picker, you are correct. Except we already have term limits. They are called elections. Incumbents purchase their reelection with the money from the privileged few. The money is the problem. Term limits don't solve the money issue. Public financing would.

The Picker

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 11:24 p.m.

And yes we should all have health coverage. The exact same coverage our senators and congressmen receive. It's a Rolls Royce plan, transparent, bipartisan, and they already know how much it costs per person annually. Just present your social security card at the doctor's office or emergency room.

The Picker

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 10:35 p.m.

With term limits, corruption has less of a chance to insulate itself. It should be a part time job anyway! Too much paper being shuffled uselessly!

The Picker

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 10:27 p.m.

Was it a deal or wasn't it?

David Briegel

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 10:07 p.m.

It is naive and foolish to think that our term limited politicians are any different than their predecessors. The special interests just have a shorter time to work! Do you think that matters to them? Do you think there is anything you can do to make them "work for the people" short of renting them? If we were a civilized and Christian nation we would not be discussing health care. We currently pay for the insurance coverage of everyone that is insured either through our taxes or the cost of the goods we purchase. We just need to include everyone! Jesus didn't say to just bless the few! Good posts Craig and Atticus!

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 8 p.m.

"As for cutting off those that already qualify, we made a deal we should stick to it. I'm dismayed by some of the commenters. Do liberals ever stick to their word?" I thought conservatives were always harping that Government needs to run like a business, like the private sector. Last time I checked the private sector was dumping health care left and right. Its a business decision. One day you have health care the next day you don't.


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 6:38 p.m.

Way to go, Rep. Byrnes! I can't wait to have her leadership in the Senate!! She is always in the headlines getting stuff done for Washtenaw County! GO PAM!!


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 6:19 p.m.

I think the state should go the other route. Lifetime benefits for all residents. If an employer is looking where to locate they will choose the place with health care for their employees.I would also suggest free post K-12 education for all those who want it. This will bring smarter, younger and a better qualified work force which all businesses will want. If you look at t he facts, taxes are not anywhere in the top 5 reasons a business chooses its location. Work force and quality of life are higher.

Atticus F.

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 5:26 p.m.

In the richest country in the world, everybody should have lifetime healthcare.

The Picker

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 5:15 p.m.

This just a start! All politicians should be cut off, federal, state and local! Why should they get anything the rest of us don't receive out of gov't. As for cutting off those that already qualify, we made a deal we should stick to it. I'm dismayed by some of the commenters. Do liberals ever stick to their word?

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 4:57 p.m.

"Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop told the Detroit Free Press that his party would support slashing the insurance benefits for future legislators, but not current or former lawmakers." spoken like a true Republican...we need to slash Government except when it impacts me.


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 4:39 p.m.

About time this was on everyones radar, now we need to eliminate lifetime benefits also for those who go to Washington....then you will see real health care reform!!

Top Cat

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 4:15 p.m.

It may be hard to believe but we have a much more "functional" legislature than New York or California and we are in better shape financially. One of the reasons is that we don't have legislators for life who are owned by the special interests. Why? Term limits!


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 4:05 p.m.

These "Lawmakers" are supposed to be working for the people. Why in the world should a public service "worker" get benefits for life? I and many others pay a huge percentage of my gross income to taxes, evidently to pay for the health care of those who are supposed to be looking out for my best interest? Maybe it would be in my best interest not to have to pay for the health care of people who make FAR more than I ever will working a real job, at least for as long as I still have one here in Michigan.

David Briegel

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 3:45 p.m.

I would rather pay their health care than have them selling their services to the highest bidder like they do now! Best govt money can buy. WE need to buy them. Term limits are silly! They have done nothing to help and more harm than good.

Regular Voter

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 3:25 p.m.

Michigan can't afford to pay for all this government any more. Especially benefits for the politicians who aren't getting the job done. Part time legislature is what we need. Our politicians know how to do a better job, they just don't hear us demanding it. Come on people!


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 2:58 p.m.

I think that there are a lot of "benefits" that can be eliminated. When theses lawmakers leave, it should be just like anyone changing jobs, start anew with whatever the new job offers. I, for one, am tired of paying out huge sums of money to people that worked for us...and the optimum word here is "worked". When no longer in office, a nice hand shake, good luck in the future is all that is needed...stop the insane royal treatment of people that either have loads of money or are in a profession that is highly paid that they will return to.


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 2:45 p.m.

An unintended consequence of Michigan's term-limits laws -- now we have even more qualified elective 'retirees' claiming these benefits. If they want to compromise, then provide benefits only until they qualify for Medicare.

Top Cat

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 2:34 p.m.

According to an article in The Detroit News, this would save about $5 million a year.