June 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Study: More Detroiters insured after Medicaid expansion

A pair of studies released Thursday show the Affordable Care Act is fulfilling its promise of reducing the ranks of uninsured in Detroit and across the nation.

A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that the number of uninsured Detroiters could drop by 96,000 people by 2016 — a 65.8 percent decrease — due mostly to Michigan’s Medicaid expansion. Called the Healthy Michigan Plan, the expansion would reduce the number of uninsured in Detroit to 50,000 from 146,000.

The other study, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that nearly six in ten people nationwide who bought their insurance through the national health insurance exchange were previously uninsured.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report looked at changes in health coverage among the uninsured in 14 major U.S. cities; half of those cities were located in states, like Michigan, that chose to expand Medicaid.

Researchers concluded that expanding Medicaid will make a significant dent in the number of uninsured people in large cities because of the high density of low- and moderate-income people who are eligible for the program.

The report also estimated that federal spending on health care in Detroit will increase by $5.9 billion between 2013 and 2023.

Insuring more Detroiters is considered essential to reducing the city’s high rates of uncontrolled chronic health conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes. The lack of health insurance for Detroit women is considered a key factor in the city’s high rate of preterm deliveries and infant deaths.

“For several years health reform will be the driving force behind a large drop in the number of uninsured people living in major cities,” John Lumpkin, M.D., senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a press release Thursday.

“The biggest decline is happening in places like Detroit, because Michigan lawmakers chose to expand the Medicaid program throughout the state.”

The Michigan Department of Community Health announced Wednesday that 301,645 people signed up for the Healthy Michigan Plan in 11 weeks since enrollment started on April 1. The plan is expected to cover about 320,000 Michigan residents this year, and will eventually provide care for 477,000 Michigan residents.

About 8 million Americans signed up for Obamacare during the first round of open enrollment, which ended March 31.

But the government and nonprofits will need to increase funding for assistance to consumers if an enrollment target of 13 million is to be met in the enrollment period that starts Nov. 15, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said Thursday.

“There were an awful lot of people that, when they finally wanted to enroll, they wanted to talk with a real person and go to a real place,” Altman said during a media briefing Thursday. “They need some actual help and they want some actual help to make this work.

“Many (consumers) have never had insurance in the past and insurance literacy is very low for this group.”

This story is part of a collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.