Today marks the 50th anniversary of the bill signing that created the Medicaid and Medicare programs. Michigan’s John Dingell was present at the signing in 1965, and in recent years continued to push for Medicaid expansion in Michigan that is helping so many more individuals today.
It is truly mind-boggling to think about the millions of individuals in Michigan the Medicaid program has served and saved since it was implemented in October 1966. Medicaid and Healthy Michigan Plan enrollment currently exceeds two million residents. The breadth of the program’s impacts as well as the vital supports and health and financial security the program provides is remarkable.
I think about the babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units who have survived and thrived because of Medicaid, or the elderly and those with disabilities who have been able to live independently and remain in their homes or communities because of the programs and services provided by Medicaid. From newborns to seniors and everyone in between, Medicaid continues to help Michigan citizens receive the care they need.
I’m sure all of us have a family member, friend or acquaintance who has benefitted from the Medicaid program. I am so grateful my mother-in-law was able to enroll in the MIChoice waiver program and receive services that allowed her to remain in her own home when she was no longer able to care for herself.
I applaud the governor and Legislature for expanding Medicaid and creating the Healthy Michigan Plan. This program is providing healthcare coverage and services to hundreds of thousands of residents who had previously been forced to go without coverage, and many had to forego needed medical treatment. They now have the opportunity to take control of their health and take care of themselves, and not just be fearful of what might be coming next. They are able to see a doctor when they need to, obtain needed medications and go to a dentist.
To continue the Medicaid tradition of “keeping us healthy,” it is essential that federal and state policymakers work together to enable the Healthy Michigan Plan to continue. State officials are currently in discussion with federal officials to try to work through policy changes required by the state law that may not conform with federal law or regulation. If agreement cannot be reached, state lawmakers may have to step in on behalf of their constituents to modify the law to continue this very successful program.
While some consider high enrollment in Medicaid an economic failure, an alternative to simply being uninsured is not clear. Some people will never be able to get enough hours (due to the nature of their jobs) to qualify for employer-sponsored coverage or their pay will remain too low to allow them to purchase coverage for themselves and their families. I’m thankful that Medicaid is there as a support system for those low-income individuals and families. In addition, there are many small employers who are not mandated to provide coverage and will never be able to afford to. I’m grateful Medicaid is there as a safety net for those small employers and their employees.
The success of our state’s insurance market should not just be measured by who is providing the coverage and whether it’s the public or private sector, but by whether or not we have a healthier population and workforce and improved quality of life for all Michigan residents. In that regard, Medicaid continues to have resounding results.
Let’s celebrate the Medicaid program for the good that it has done over the last 50 years, work with policymakers to continue the long history of innovation and improvement in the program, and commit to thwarting any efforts at the state or federal levels that would diminish this efficient, effective program.
Congratulations to all of those individuals who have made the Medicaid program what it is! Here’s to the next 50 years!
— Jan Hudson