Snyder: Medicaid expansion reaches 600,000 residents

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Detroit — On the eve of the first anniversary of the Healthy Michigan Plan, Gov. Rick Snyder said Tuesday more than 603,000 Michiganians have enrolled since the expanded Medicaid Program launched on April 1, 2014.

The number exceeds by more than 100,000 people the two-year enrollment projections made prior to the program’s launch. The Healthy Michigan Plan provides health insurance to low-income working people for a minimal cost.

Snyder announced the new total during remarks at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2015 Health Care Leaders Forum. The Republican governor, who battled to push the expansion through the GOP-led state House and Senate, said Michigan’s program can serve as a model for other states.

The expanded Medicaid program required special waivers from the U.S. Department of Human Services to charge participants up to 5 percent of their income.

“The program is working, and people are using the program,” Snyder told business and health leaders at the annual event. “In terms of preventive care visits, the number now exceeds 450,000.

“The people are using the program to get preventive care and hopefully avoid that ER visit or that chronic condition that may be prevented by getting health care sooner and better.”

Snyder said Michigan still faces health care challenges, including the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision in King v. Burwell. Plaintiffs argue federal tax subsidies for health insurance are illegal in 34 states, including Michigan, whose health insurance exchanges are run by the federal government.

In Michigan, 300,241 people with policies purchased at, or about 88 percent, qualified for an average tax credit of $236 per month. The court is expected to rule in June.

Snyder said he views the federal Affordable Care Act “as probably one of the most polarizing things we’ve had in our country in a long time.”

“You tend to find people either dramatically for or dramatically against it, and very seldom actually looking at the facts in terms of what it did and what it didn’t do.”

Though Snyder supports some aspects of the law, he said it’s not a solution to all of America’s health care problems.

“The Affordable Care Act is not our long-term solution,” Snyder said. “I still believe we need fundamental health care reform in our country ... that talks about the cost structures, continuing to push the medical home model, other things that need to happen.”

The governor, whose recent executive order merged the state departments of Community Health and Human Services, said Michigan and the country need a more holistic approach to health care that addresses the entire needs of the individual.

“This is stepping back to say there’s a better way for government, for the public sector, to look at serving our citizens in a more holistic way,” Snyder said. “It needs to happen, it’s long overdue.

“This is about the integration of health care in terms of human services, employment services, all these different areas. We need to step back and say it’s not about programs, it’s about people.”