July 25, 2014 at 10:55 am

COLUMNS

Michigan Medicaid reform: Putting patients and taxpayers in control

Bolger )

Last year, we reformed Medicaid in Michigan and these changes are starting to show positive results. Unlike the federal government, enrollment in the Healthy Michigan Plan has operated successfully.

More importantly, the reforms are saving taxpayer money because they are cutting down on uncompensated care, helping people get healthier and getting people back to work.

After much debate, we approved the Medicaid reform package in response to Obamacare.

Without a state plan, our uninsured citizens would be forced onto the federally run health insurance exchange and our taxpayers would be forced to pay higher costs. We focused on savings to taxpayers, economic impact to the state, and helping individuals improve their health through health care services. Initial figures show our Michigan reform solution costs taxpayers 24 percent less than the costs of forcing these same people onto the federal exchange. Under Obamacare, those not covered would be forced onto federal exchanges.

By getting these individuals coverage through Michiganís reformed Medicaid program, the Legislature saved taxpayers money.

The Healthy Michigan Plan empowers patients so they can take charge of their personal behaviors, allowing them to lead healthier, more productive lives by working with their doctor.

This is achieved through premium cost sharing for new patients.

New enrollees share in their premium responsibilities based on their income, but can reduce their costs by following the plan they set with their doctor to improve their health, like quitting smoking or losing weight.

After 48 months, enrollees have a choice to either stay on the plan and pay more or transition off Medicaid to a private insurance plan. Michigan also is contracting with health care insurers instead of government operating as an insurer, so that cost efficiencies and health improvements can be further developed.

The Michigan plan also helps improve the health of our economy by reducing uncompensated care costs and offering job providers a healthier workforce.

Michigan employers are forced to pay for Obamacare whether a state provides additional Medicaid coverage nor not. Now, Michiganís workers and employers can be helped by Michiganís reforms.

Michigan taxpayers have been and will continue to be protected through this plan.

If the federal government falters on its commitment to cover the costs of expansion in Michigan ó or taxpayers savings are not realized ó a safeguard built into our law cancels this new program immediately.

Our work on this reform plan kept taxpayer dollars in Michigan and protected our hardworking women and men from getting stuck with a bill if the federal government backs out.

As Michigan continues to drive forward, Michiganians must be healthy for our economyís health to continue improving. The Healthy Michigan plan provides Michiganís workers, uninsured, and employers benefits the federal governmentís plan lack.

For example, after years of being an entrepreneur and unable to afford insurance, one Michiganian had been relying on emergency care for things that could be avoided with doctor visits.

Now, this individual has coverage.

In another case, an individual lost their job and had several health issues preventing her from going back to work.

Now, thanks to the Healthy Michigan Plan, this individual received care and is headed back to work for the first time in years.

Local stories are even more striking when compared with states that did not reform coverage for the uninsured the way Michigan has. Michigan has made the Healthy Michigan Plan resemble what private health insurance plans look like, but at a less-expensive cost.

Other states that refused to act did nothing to nullify or stop Obamacare.

By not acting, North Carolina and Georgia forced more than 400,000 and more than 600,000 uninsured working people, respectively, onto the federal health insurance exchange.

This is costing their taxpayers millions more.

When faced with doing nothing and ceding control of Michigan patients and taxpayer dollars to the federal government, the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder stood up and provided a Michigan solution.

State Rep. Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, is speaker of the Michigan House.

Bolger )