MI exceeds healthcare enrollment target

Enrollment in healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act is picking up steam, particularly in Michigan.

Nationwide, more than 4 million people have enrolled in healthcare coverage through a state-operated exchange or the federal Marketplace through Feb. 26. And in Michigan, more than 112,000 individuals have enrolled in a plan through Feb. 1, placing Michigan 12% above its federally set target for the period and one of only a handful of states to exceed its enrollment target.

As of Feb.1, more than 255,000 Michiganians had completed an application and been determined eligible to enroll in a Marketplace health plan. With an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 Michiganians eligible to purchase coverage on the Marketplace, this is an impressive start.

Not only is Healthcare.gov working, individuals and families are finding plans that meet their needs, and their budgets — and they are enrolling.  This is great news for those who have gained comprehensive, affordable healthcare coverage.

Among enrollees:

  • 56% are female
  • 55% are between 45 and 64 years of age
  • 26% are ages 19-34
  • 73% opted for a Silver Tier plan(this is the plan on which the premium tax credits are based and not the least expensive plan)
  • 86% are eligible for premium tax credits and/or cost-sharing subsidies (that reduce out-of-pocket costs)

Those who have not yet enrolled in a plan still have time to review their options and enroll. The deadline for this open enrollment period is March 31. Those who have not yet checked out Healthcare.gov still have time to shop, make a selection and enroll. Assistance, through Healthcare.gov  or Enroll Michigan, is available for help with applications, plan selection, and enrollment.

Premium assistance calculators are also available to provide an estimate of the amount of premium tax credits that could be available for an individual or family. Kaiser Family Foundation and Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services each has a calculator available.

These calculators are great resources for those who may believe there are no affordable options in the Marketplace for them.

Another upcoming opportunity to obtain healthcare coverage is enrollment in the Healthy Michigan Plan, Michigan’s Medicaid expansion. This program will provide comprehensive benefits to those with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level (up to $15,521 for an individual or $31,721 for a family of four). While the program will begin on April 1, the date when open enroll will begin is not expected to be announced until mid-March.

In the meantime, individuals enrolled in the Adult Benefits Waiver (also known as the Adult Medical Program) are being transitioned to the Healthy Michigan Plan and have the opportunity to select a managed care plan prior to the April 1 implementation date.

Slowly but surely, the Affordable Care Act is making affordable, quality healthcare coverage available, making the promise a reality and making healthcare coverage a right not a privilege.

– Jan Hudson

Exhausted but inspired

I recently returned from Health Action 2014, Families USA’s annual conference, in my usual condition – exhausted yet inspired! It was a good year for Michigan: Dizzy Warren, of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, was awarded one of the three Advocate of the Year awards, and Michigan blogger Amy Lynn Smith won the painting created onsite by Regina Holliday!

The conference opened with a cancer survivor sharing her story of having her COBRA coverage end on Dec. 31, 2013 during her cancer treatment. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, she was able to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1 and continue her treatments uninterrupted.

She introduced Vice President Joe Biden who shared his relief that we will no longer debate whether healthcare is a right or a privilege. With implementation of the ACA, it’s a right.

“And we’re not going back!” Biden said.

He stressed the importance of healthcare coverage, sharing his own story, and spoke of the peace of mind those who gain coverage will experience.

A few highlights:

  • Ezra Klein shared thoughtful comments about the need to implement the law, learn from experience, and modify it as needed. The ACA is a real law, and because of it, real people are able to go to the doctor!
  • Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear embraced the Affordable Care Act as a great opportunity for historic transformation in his state. “It is the morally right thing to do,” he said. Through an executive order, he established a state-operated marketplace, and through executive authority he was able to expand Medicaid eligibility. He expressed disappointment that more states are not setting politics aside and doing what is right and best for the people.
  • Dr. Harold Freeman described his patient navigator programs which coordinate care and remove barriers to needed services by piecing together the fragmented healthcare system for individual people. He described it as a ‘relay races in which the patient is the baton and the hand-offs must be well done.’
  • George Halverson shared a number of stunning statistics on brain development and the need for interventions and upstream efforts similar to those used in the medical system to prevent heart attacks or strokes. The No.1 predictor of who will go to jail can be linked to the number of words in a child’s vocabulary upon kindergarten entry! Furthermore, 70% of people in jail can’t read or read poorly. The first three years of brain development are critical and current science can predict with high accuracy who will be able to read and who won’t. It was a most sobering presentation.
  • Regina Holliday, an inspiring presenter, talked about using art in patient advocacy efforts. She used art to sustain her in her grief after her 39 year-old husband died. She painted during the conference; Amy Lynn Smith won the painting.

The conference was chocked full of great presentations and workshops. I presented on Michigan’s Bumpy Journey to passing the Medicaid expansion legislation. I was thrilled to be able to say that Michigan has done the right thing.  It was heartbreaking to hear the stories from the states where policymakers are refusing to accept the federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility.

There is still much to be done to make the promise real.  Time to get to work!

– Jan Hudson

Healthy Michigan Plan moves forward

Great news to start the year! The federal government Monday approved Michigan’s request to expand Medicaid eligibility through a new program, the Healthy Michigan Plan.

This action brings Michigan one step closer to providing comprehensive coverage to Michigan’s low-income, uninsured residents.

It has been a long, tough road to get to this point. (more…)

Affordable Care Act works even if the website doesn’t

Amid all the reports of problems with the launch of healthcare.gov, the new federal health insurance Marketplace website – and there have been big problems – it is important to be reminded of the opportunity and security that the Affordable Care Act is providing.

A recently released report concludes: “In short, the Affordable Care Act is working even better than expected, producing more coverage for much less money.” (more…)

Marketplace coverage is affordable

We all need access to affordable, quality healthcare coverage so that we can make responsible healthcare decisions to take care of ourselves and our families. Access to unprecedented opportunities will become available when the problems that have plagued the opening of the Health Insurance Marketplace are resolved – and they will be resolved.

Affordable coverage is made possible by the advance premium tax credits available to those with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level – $23,550 to $94,200 for a family of four, and the cost-sharing subsidies available to those who purchase a silver-level plan with incomes between 100% and 250% of the federal poverty level – $23,550 and $58,875 for a family of four. (more…)

Focusing on the bigger picture

With all the attention paid to the launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace on Oct. 1, it’s easy for other benefits of the Affordable Care Act to get lost in the shuffle.

My colleague, Senior Policy Analyst Jan Hudson, highlighted them in a viewpoint published Sunday in the Lansing State Journal.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, will indeed help the uninsured. Many of them work hard for low wages and no benefits. Expanding Medicaid and offering subsidies based on income are clearly the right things to do. (more…)

Good news on health insurance costs

Michigan’s average cost for the gold, silver and bronze health insurance plans that will be sold in the Health Insurance Marketplace came in below the national average, according to a report released by the federal government today.

This is very good news for uninsured Michiganians, who will soon have the opportunity to shop for, compare, and enroll in quality healthcare coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace, set to open next Tuesday.

The report summarizes health plan choices and premiums expected to be available in the marketplaces for states that will have a fully federally run marketplace and for those that are partnering with the federal government. Michigan will have a federally operated marketplace and is expected to have an average of 43 plan options for purchasers to consider. (more…)

A miracle in Dearborn

DEARBORN, Mich. – While acknowledging that a big job still lies ahead implementing the Affordable Care Act in Michigan, dozens of lawmakers, advocates, small business owners, hospital officials and patients gathered at Oakwood Hospital to celebrate the signing of House Bill 4714, which expands Medicaid eligibility.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation, making Michigan the 25th state to embrace Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. It will help an estimated 470,000 uninsured adults in the Mitten State. (more…)

For uninsured, vote is huge step forward

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436 or (517) 410-5798

The following statement is from Gilda Z. Jacobs, president & CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, on the 4-0-1 vote Wednesday by the Senate Government Operations Committee to approve a substitute to HB 4714 (Medicaid expansion):

“This is a huge step forward for low-income uninsured adults in Michigan. Accepting federal dollars to provide needed health care to low-wage workers, unemployed parents and others will improve the health of hundreds of thousands in our state and increase Michigan’s competitiveness. It will reduce expensive and unnecessary emergency room treatment while saving dollars and providing more effective care. It’s hoped that the full Senate will quickly pass this plan when senators return next month.’’

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, formerly the Michigan League for Human Services, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy and research organization dedicated to economic opportunity for all.

Riding the healthcare rollercoaster

Good news! Bad news. Good news!

The rollercoaster ride that is the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in Michigan continues. Friday, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville told reporters on Off the Record that a vote will happen this summer to expand eligibility for Medicaid, a key component of the Affordable Care Act that could reduce our uninsured population in Michigan by half – and it would use available federal dollars to pay for it.  A committee hearing is set for Wednesday. (more…)

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