Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

June 11, 2014

Al Pilong: Healthy Michigan Plan offers help for region

TRAVERSE CITY — Making ends meet in northern Michigan for some families means scrambling between part-time jobs or working 60-hour weeks on a seasonal basis to earn $33,000 a year for a five-member household.

Typically, the jobs involved would not provide an opportunity for health benefits. Prior to April 1, that meant the only option available was the private insurance market. That expense was too costly to consider.

Now, that family of five making $33,000 qualifies for the Healthy Michigan Plan – Michigan’s Medicaid expansion effort to help more families obtain health coverage. The program is available to those who are at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. An individual who makes $15,000 or less per year qualifies. A family of five making less than $38,516 does as well.

The program started enrolling individuals and families April 1. The most recent statistics from mid-May show 259,007 residents successfully received coverage through the plan. However, in the five-county area served by Munson Medical Center, just 39 percent, or 3,181 of the 8,056 uninsured residents, took advantage of the opportunity.

Munson Medical Center joined the Michigan Health and Hospital Association to advocate for the expansion of Medicaid because it made good economic sense for the residents of our region, and for our hospital. The legislature agreed when it passed the law.

National research clearly shows people with health insurance are healthier than those without it.

With insurance, families can work closely with their physician to receive preventive care.

Those who are ill, or with a chronic condition, can receive appropriate medical intervention and oversight.

Munson Medical Center applauded expansion of Medicaid. If wellness and prevention strategies keep someone out of the ER, then we all win. The patient has better health – and there is less cost involved.

Along with other hospitals across the country, Munson Medical Center began paying for the Affordable Care Act in 2010 after our national advocacy organization, the American Hospital Association, agreed to accept lower reimbursements in exchange for what the Obama administration promised would be a significant reduction in the number of uninsured patients.

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