Column: Healthy Michigan good for state

Loretta V. Bush

Eighty-one percent of Michiganians are clear when it comes to health care access. They believe the state or federal government should provide a “low-cost, comprehensive health insurance plan for adult residents earning $34,000 a year or less.” That’s according to a recent poll conducted by EPIC-MRA.

Fortunately, that plan already exists. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize that the Healthy Michigan Plan is a model for the rest of the country. It’s helped more than 640,000 poor Michigan residents get coverage and care, dropped uncompensated care costs at hospitals by 44 percent, and generated more than 30,000 new jobs every year. On top of that, studies suggest that the Healthy Michigan Plan will net the state $413 million this fiscal year alone.

Michigan residents covered by Healthy Michigan aren’t forced to put off checkups and regular care due to financial concerns. They have the resources and support to manage chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, or to receive comprehensive prenatal care. This preventive care makes it easier to catch problems early, reduces unnecessary (and costly) visits to the emergency department, and helps put healthier residents back to work.

This focus on primary and preventive care leads to a healthier Michigan as well as cost savings.

As the country debates health care policy and whether or not we should repeal the Affordable Care Act, we’re losing sight of the fact that people in Michigan need help. And while the Healthy Michigan Plan is making great strides in delivering care to the people who need it most, we can do more.

That’s where Michigan Health Centers can help. Last year, 43 Michigan Health Centers delivered medical, behavioral, dental, pharmacy, or vision care to more than 640,000 patients, 55 percent of whom were covered by Medicaid. In total, 20 percent of the state’s Medicaid patients seek care from a Health Center. However, because of Health Centers’ whole-person, coordinated care approach, these patients represent only 1.5 percent of the state’s total Medicaid expenditures.

Health Centers also recognize that good health isn’t just about being able to see a doctor. It’s about access to nutritious foods, reliable transportation, and stable, safe housing. That’s why many Health Centers partner with other government, business, and community organizations to help their patients obtain the resources they need to stay healthy. Patients also have access to many enabling services, such as transportation, translation, or enrollment assistance, as part of their Health Center experience.

We need a bipartisan coalition to champion reform policies that preserve and strengthen public health initiatives, like Medicaid, Healthy Michigan, and the Health Center program. Cuts to these programs will lead to dire, real-life consequences for millions of people.

When you learn that 50 percent of Michigan’s children, 46 percent of delivered babies, and two-thirds of nursing home beds were supported or covered by Medicaid last year, you start to see the big picture of why Medicaid is so important in our state — and across the nation.

But I’m hopeful. Polling in Michigan and across the nation reflects a very specific message: The need for quality, affordable health care unites us all.

Loretta V. Bush is CEO of the Michigan Primary Care Association.