Lyon: Healthy Michigan Plan good for state’s health

The Healthy Michigan Plan is working for Michigan residents, our economy and our future generations.

That’s why I disagree with the recent Detroit News editorial (“Obamacare savings may be short-lived,” Aug. 30) stating that continuing the Michigan-specific health care expansion program might eventually put a financial burden on the business community.

The Healthy Michigan Plan legislation was signed into law 17 months ago with a defined payment structure through 2020. It will save $220 million annually through 2016 by providing eligible residents with more complete care in place of less comprehensive state-funded programs.

The editorial correctly notes that the federal government covers 100 percent of the program costs — an arrangement that will continue through 2016. The state will contribute 5 percent beginning in 2017 with matching rates increasing to 10 percent through 2020, which is why Gov. Rick Snyder has been a strong proponent of continued fiscal responsibility.

In the coming years, Michigan will be faced with several budgetary strains in order to meet our financial obligations. But as we collaborate on budget discussions, it’s important to remember that this innovative program is providing coverage for nearly 600,000 residents, functioning as intended, and has in many regards exceeded expectations.

Those residents, including many that are employed in one or more jobs, now have access to preventive care, and in many cases, lifesaving care. As a state, we should take pride in the results.

The Healthy Michigan Plan has a special focus on encouraging people to adopt healthier behaviors. Beneficiaries look at their health risks then meet with primary care providers, people in our communities — neighbors, family members, co-workers — and are able to step up and use their health care coverage to improve their health and lead longer, more productive lives.

The program already has resulted in more than 2.1 million primary care visits, with more than 455,000 people visiting a primary care provider. Additionally, 174,179 people have had preventive care visits, and the program has covered 52,000 mammograms and 27,000 colonoscopies.

That’s important because those vital checks can catch and treat health issues in their early stages, before they become more severe. That saves money. But, more importantly, it saves lives.

The Healthy Michigan plan is for adults between the ages of 19 and 64, but families as a whole still benefit. When parents have medical coverage, they have a better chance in succeeding in employment. The plan helps parents improve their overall health and wellness which, in turn, helps families on their paths to self-sufficiency.

And the plan helps businesses control rising healthcare costs, allowing them to hold on to jobs and even grow.

Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said that without the implementation of the Healthy Michigan Plan, his members would have faced even greater increases in health insurance due to the cost shifting that went on as a result of uncompensated care.

“We need to stay vigilant that the savings to hospitals and insurance companies finds its way back to customers in the form of lower healthcare rates,” he said.

For the first time in Michigan, high-quality health care coverage is available to hundreds of thousands previously uninsured residents. We launched the Healthy Michigan Plan to make Michigan’s future one of strength and innovation for our residents, healthcare and business communities. This program is not about short-lived savings, it’s about long-term investments.

Nick Lyon, director

Michigan Department

of Health and Human Services