Traverse City Record-Eagle

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September 11, 2013

Medicaid expansion to help many area residents

TRAVERSE CITY — Amy Bauer works as a full-time waitress, but insurance isn’t part of her compensation package.

Bauer wasn’t immediately aware that Michigan lawmakers just passed expansion of Medicaid insurance, but definitely is interested in signing up.

“If I could qualify, you betcha,” said Bauer as she shopped for clothes at Goodwill Industries retail store. “That would be helpful. My husband doesn’t have insurance either, but our kids do. When you get sick, you just hope it will pass because you don’t want to pay money.”

Medicaid already covers one in five Michigan residents, mainly low-income children, pregnant women, and the disabled. But poor working adults rarely qualify. The program, to take effect in April, will assist nearly 500,000 state residents who earn 133 percent of the federal poverty guidelines or less — a family of four, for example, making up to $31,322.

A total of 10,314 additional folks in Antrim, Benzie, Leelanau, Kalkaska, and Grand Traverse counties would be eligible for Medicaid under the expansion, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

The move received a thumbs-up from other Goodwill shoppers.

“I think it’s good,” said Sally Troyer of Traverse City. “I’m real sad right now about people whose hours were cut less than 30 hours so employers won’t have to pay insurance. The people are barely making money as it is.”

Troyer was referring to the Affordable Care Act’s upcoming mandate to provide health insurance to those who work 30 hours or more.

Lawmakers from northern Michigan gave a mixed vote. State Sen. Howard Walker’s vote was pivotal in the final 20-18 Senate tally. State Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City Republican, also voted yes.

“This way, we make sure people have access to affordable healthcare that doesn’t make use of expensive fixes, such as the emergency room,” Schmidt said.

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