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Schuette touts anti-trafficker work, Whitmer targets smoking

October 3, 2018

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republican Bill Schuette on Wednesday highlighted his work to combat sex trafficking while Democrat Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a health care plan that calls for increasing Michigan’s smoking age from 18 to 21 and lowering costs through a state-based reinsurance program.

The gubernatorial candidates, who have been attacking each other over taxes, health coverage and other topics, each promoted parts of their records that they believe will appeal to the general electorate.

Schuette, the state attorney general, began airing a new TV ad in which a woman who was a victim of sex trafficking calls him her “last hope to get justice” and says he signed paperwork to prosecute her trafficker, giving her “freedom to live my life again.” He collaborated with the Legislature to form a human trafficking commission, which led to the enactment of laws designed to shield minor victims from prosecution, give them treatment and crack down on criminals involved in the illegal sex trade.

Schuette’s fight against trafficking has been highlighted in the race before. A Republicans Governors Association-backed group in August launched an ad in which another victim touted his work creating an anti-trafficking task force.

Whitmer, meanwhile, released her health care proposal, which had been expected to come before the August primary she won over more liberal Democrats who criticized her for not embracing a “Medicare-for-all” system. She said five states have raised the tobacco purchase age to 21, and 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. She also called for a statewide smoking ban at public parks and beaches.

Schuette in 2017 issued an opinion finding that Ann Arbor’s ban on the sale of tobacco to 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds conflicted with a 1972 state law that sets the “age of majority” at 18.

Whitmer unsurprisingly said she would keep intact the state’s Medicaid expansion — which she helped pass as a lawmaker at a time Schuette opposed it — and that she would back state legislation guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions if the protections included in former President Barack Obama’s health law were repealed by Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court. She also said Michigan should follow the lead of other states and create a reinsurance program to spread out the risk of insuring unhealthy “super utilizers” of health care, lowering the cost of plans for people who buy coverage in the individual market.

Reinsurance provides a safety net for insurers by helping to pay large claims. A federal waiver would be needed. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration recently asked health insurers for recommendations on a potential state reinsurance program. Whitmer did not say how she would fund such an initiative, which could leverage additional federal matching dollars.

Her plan also calls for abolishing from Michigan’s books an abortion ban that predates the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, making prescription drug pricing more transparent and boosting mental health funding by an unspecified amount.

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Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/David%20Eggert .

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