Michigan House panel considers ban on mobile phone use while driving

Senator questions Michigan’s ‘soaring’ Medicaid costs

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — A Republican senator wants Michigan and seven other states that expanded Medicaid to account for their programs’ “soaring” costs, saying expansion spending per-enrollee is rising “exponentially” in Michigan.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, wrote to Gov. Rick Snyder this week requesting data and explanations on the state’s Medicaid expansion program, Healthy Michigan, which covers nearly 664,400 low-income people. Michigan’s Medicaid customers exceeded a projection of 477,000 enrollees by the end of 2015.

Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is concerned some states are wrongly classifying some enrollees under the expansion because the states get a higher reimbursement rate under the expansion.

“I am seeking to better understand these rising costs and higher-than-expected enrollment, especially in states where costs are increasing especially quickly,” Johnson wrote to Snyder. “Has Michigan taken any steps to control these costs and, if so, what are those steps?”

The Wisconsin senator sent similar letters to the governors of California, West Virginia, Illinois, New York, Ohio, New Hampshire and Hawaii.

Johnson’s inquiry comes the same week that Senate Republicans’ plan to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act collapsed amid opposition from several GOP members.

That measure would have eliminated the Healthy Michigan program among other Medicaid expansion programs in 2020. Medicaid traditionally provides health coverage for low-income earners.

A Snyder spokesman said he’s reviewing Johnson’s letter, which requests data about newly eligible enrollees for 2016 and the state’s methodology for determining eligibility thresholds for new enrollees in Healthy Michigan by Oct. 11. He also seeks any documents and communication among employees related to determining eligibility for this population under the program.

Johnson cites federal data showing $1.5 billion in spending for new Medicaid beneficiaries in Michigan in 2014 growing to $3.3 billion in 2015.

But the Wisconsin senator does not distinguish that the Health Michigan program was only in effect for half of 2014, from when it took effect in April 2014 through the end of the fiscal year in September. So the increase from 2014 to 2015 doesn’t seem as drastic, considering the program was still building up enrollment through the first year.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that the per-enrollee costs for Healthy Michigan have increased 23 percent from $422.45 per enrollee per month in fiscal 2014 to $520.76 per enrollee per month in fiscal 2016.