Gov. Snyder is to be commended for supporting the Medicaid expansion. He sent an early Valentine to hundreds of thousands of low-income uninsured working individuals and parents, potentially saving them from the coverage chasm, by including federal funds in his healthcare budget.
These benefits can be provided through the cost-effective expansion of the Medicaid program to residents with incomes at or below 133% of the federal poverty level. The League’s recent report documents the many advantages of the Medicaid expansion.
The Medicaid program is designed to meet the needs of low-income populations who often have poorer health statuses and greater healthcare needs than the general population. The benefits are comprehensive to meet the healthcare needs with limited out-of-pocket costs. Comprehensive behavioral health benefits, including substance abuse treatment and case management, are included, and will benefit this population who often report fair or poor behavioral health status.
Everyone should be able to go to the doctor when they are sick, obtain the medications they need to restore health or manage chronic conditions, or obtain the mental health services they need and not be denied or added to a waiting list.
Providing healthcare services and security to hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents can be accomplished with no investment (for the first three years) of state funds, and will result in state savings of more than $200 million per year (for limited services currently paid by the state that will be paid with federal dollars). The governor has wisely recommended that half of the state savings be deposited in a “health savings account” to cover state costs down the road when the federal government gradually reduces its share to 90% – still an amazing deal for the state – from 2020 on.
Some lawmakers have expressed concern that the federal government will not keep its funding promise. A federal official announced last year that states could withdraw from the expanded coverage after implementing if they so choose. This official did note, however, that Congress has a long history of adding to the federal match rate for Medicaid rather than reducing it.
The governor also appears to have recommended the full Medicaid benefits package for the expanded population. If so, he is also to be commended for this decision. That would recognize that it is in both the recipients’ and the state’s best interest to enable residents to receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time, by the right provider – and the state can receive full federal funding for doing the right thing.
It makes little sense to restrict benefits (e.g., dental) only to force people to go to the emergency room when they need care. Limiting benefits does not eliminate the need for care, and often results in escalated treatment needs and cost.
Now is the time for lawmakers to listen, as the governor did, to the people, the provider community, small businesses, researchers and the House and Senate Fiscal agencies who agree the expansion is a great opportunity for the state to increase access to healthcare coverage, reduce healthcare costs, and save state dollars.
We must now work together to make this policy recommendation a reality. Please call your state representative and your state senator and tell them to have a heart and approve the federal funding for the Medicaid expansion for their constituents.
– Jan Hudson