More than 800,000 Michiganders have enrolled in Michigan’s expanded Medicaid program, which aims to provide health care coverage to low-income residents through the Affordable Care Act.
The Healthy Michigan Plan had almost 682,000 enrollees in late March at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. As COVID-19 has affected Michiganders’ finances and health, enrollment has grown to a record 800,794, or about 8% of residents, according to a Tuesday, Sept. 29 announcement from the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office.
The enrollment announcement comes as the future of the Affordable Care Act is in jeopardy. The law is scheduled to come before the U.S. Supreme Court for oral arguments in November after the Trump administration and a group of Republican attorneys general asked the court to repeal the ACA.
During the pandemic, Whitmer’s administration froze premiums for the Healthy Michigan Plan for as long as the COVID-19 public health emergency exists. The state secured additional Medicaid funding from the federal government through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The state has also worked to streamline the application process over the past few years to ensure people eligible to receive benefits are able to access them “without unnecessary burdensome requirements,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Whitmer has said she will work to protect and expand health care for Michiganders, including the Healthy Michigan Plan. She said repealing the Affordable Care Act would put Michiganders’ lives at risk and hurt the state’s economy.
“As Senate Democratic Leader, I was proud to work across the aisle with a Republican governor and legislature to expand health coverage for Michiganders through the Healthy Michigan plan,” Whitmer said. “Now, with the Affordable Care Act under constant attack in the courts, it’s more important than ever that we protect Healthy Michigan and ensure care for families across the state.”
The Healthy Michigan Plan, enacted in April 2014, is available to Michiganders 19 to 64 years old who have an income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level — or $16,971 annually for a single person — and meet other eligibility requirements, including not qualifying for other Medicaid programs.
The plan more than doubled primary care usage, reduced enrollees’ reliance on the emergency room by 58%, cut uncompensated care by nearly 50%, and added $2.3 billion to the state economy, according to 2017 research from the University of Michigan.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon said expanding access to health care coverage is one of his department’s top priorities.
“The Healthy Michigan Plan has been a huge success by improving health outcomes for thousands of Michiganders,” Gordon said in a prepared statement. “Our residents are healthier and our state is more productive when people have health insurance.”
Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said she proudly stands by Healthy Michigan. She called access to affordable health care “critical” for keeping Michigan residents healthy, especially during uncertain times like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn, echoed the importance.
“The continued assaults on the Affordable Care Act are unconscionable and will have life and death consequences if they succeed,” Hammoud said. “It is abundantly clear health care access impacts all communities and must be a critical priority. I am proud of the continued investment in Healthy Michigan and the incredible support it provides to Michiganders.”