Michigan Governor Whitmer’s Healthy Plan tops 800,000 enrollees for first time

LANSING,  MI (STL.News) The Healthy Michigan Plan is now providing health care coverage to more than 800,000 low-income residents for the first time, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced today.

There are now 800,794 people enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan, the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

“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,” Governor 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.  Repealing the law would put Michiganders’ lives at risk and hurt our economy.  I will continue working with everyone who wants to protect and expand health care for Michiganders.”

COVID-19 affected the finances and health of so many Michiganders that the number of Healthy Michigan Plan beneficiaries jumped from just under 682,000 in late March to more than 800,000 six months later.  Michigan instituted policies to help families access affordable health care coverage such as deciding to avoid terminating Healthy Michigan Plan coverage and freeze premiums for as long as the COVID-19 public health emergency exists.  The state was able to qualify for additional Medicaid funding from the federal government through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The department 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.

Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) have strongly supported the Healthy Michigan Plan. When she was State Senate Democratic leader, Whitmer helped pass the bipartisan legislation that created the Healthy Michigan Plan, which was enacted in April 2014.

In March, Whitmer and MDHHS preserved Healthy Michigan Plan coverage for tens of thousands of people by supporting swift action on the legal challenge of work requirements that had been adopted by the Republican Legislature.  Policies like work requirements that take away health insurance undermine the purpose of Medicaid which is to provide health care coverage to low income and vulnerable populations.

“Expanding access to health care coverage is one of MDHHS’s top priorities,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon.  “The Healthy Michigan Plan has been a huge success by improving health outcomes for thousands of Michiganders.  Our residents are healthier and our state is more productive when people have health insurance.”

Senator Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), a champion of expanding health care, reducing maternal deaths, and addressing healthcare disparities, praised the news.

“Simply stated: Health care is a right and should be treated as such.  This pandemic has reaffirmed how important it is that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.  More than 800,000 people enrolled in Healthy Michigan have been able to take proactive steps to ensure they and their families can get the care they need,” Sen. Brinks said.  “Especially in such an uncertain time, the certainty of having access to affordable health care is critical for keeping Michigan residents healthy, and I am proud to continue standing by Healthy Michigan.”

“For so long, we’ve treated health care as if it were a luxury reserved for the wealthiest few, rather than a fundamental right shared by all Michiganders,” said Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia).  “Healthy Michigan and the Affordable Care Act changed that by throwing open the doors to care for hundreds of thousands of families across our state who needed it most.  If we’ve learned nothing else from our fight with COVID-19 this year, it’s that we must urgently act to protect these health care programs and continue expanding critical health care access to every resident — no matter who they are or where they’re from.”

“As Michigan and our nation continue to grapple with the COVID-19 global pandemic, everyone must have access to quality and affordable health care.  The continued assaults on the Affordable Care Act are unconscionable and will have life and death consequences if they succeed,” said state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn), minority vice chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.  “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.”

Healthy Michigan Plan coverage is available to Michiganders ages 19-64 years old who have an income at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level – or $16,971 annually for a single person – and meet other eligibility requirements, such as not qualifying for other Medicaid programs.  Expanded Medicaid plans are allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act if states decide to implement them.

According to 2017 research from the University of Michigan, the Healthy Michigan Plan more than doubled primary care usage, reduced enrollees’ reliance on the emergency room by 58 percent, cut uncompensated care by nearly 50 percent, and added $2.3 billion to our state’s economy.

Apply for the Healthy Michigan Plan at www.michigan.gov/MIBridges or by calling the Michigan HealthCare Helpline at 855-789-5610.

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