Michigan Republicans — April 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Michigan Republican Joe Hune doesn’t believe ER use by the poor is driving up health care costs


Dude, are you SERIOUS???!

There’s a piece in today’s Livingston County Press & Argus that starts with this statement: “Both those for and against the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” agree on one thing: Emergency room visits by those with little or no insurance are driving health-care cost increases.” The article then goes on to prove that’s not entirely correct. Apparently Republican state Senator Joe Hune DISAGREES with this.

Hune was defending his positively idiotic opposition to expanding Medicaid in Michigan under the Affordable Care Act and had this to say:

Expanding Medicaid in Michigan would cover an additional 500,000 residents, including an additional 6,000 Livingston County residents, state and county officials have said.

State Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, said he doesn’t support expanding Medicaid, in part because recipients already use ERs for mild maladies, such as colds, rather than seek care from other physicians.

Hune said expanding Michigan’s Medicaid rolls would only ensure more Medicaid recipients are using ERs, rather than other physicians, for routine care.

“I hope this thing doesn’t pass,” he said last week.

“It doesn’t matter where it comes from. It’s still the people’s money, and I just don’t agree with putting another half a million people on the Medicaid rolls, regardless if it’s federal dollars,” Hune added.

He said he hasn’t seen evidence that regular use of ERs by uninsured residents is driving up costs, however.

The reason that Medicaid patients use the ER more often is because they have diminished access to primary care physicians because, as the article points out, they have issues like lack of transportation, ability to pay co-pays, and other barriers that prevent it.

Researchers found Medicaid recipients had more difficulty getting primary care and visited ERs more often than those with private insurance based on data collected from 1999 to 2009, using U.S. National Health Interview Survey data, however, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The report found that Medicaid patients face significant hurdles to primary care, including not being able to reach doctors by phone, lack of transportation and not being able to get a timely appointment. Researchers found that about 16 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries faced one or more such barriers to primary care, compared to 9 percent of those with private insurance with the same challenges.

Physicians have said overall poorer health among Medicaid recipients also contributes to a higher rate of ER visits from those patients, however.

The fact remains that poor people without access to health insurance are three times more likely to use ERs for their primary care than everyone else. That this is causing higher health care costs for everyone else is so universally-accepted that one wonders where the hell Joe Hune has been living for the past decade.

The good news is that, in Michigan at least, Medicaid recipients’ access to primary care physicians is actually improving, just one more reason among dozens that expansion of Medicaid to nearly a half million more Michiganders is a Good Idea. For other reasons, including the fact that it will save our state hundreds of millions of dollars, see Amy Lynn Smith’s pieces from this past weekend (HERE and HERE.)

Hospitals want it. Doctors want it (and are ready, willing and able to deal with it). The only people against it are people like Joe Hune who are so against doing anything that will show the Affordable Care Act to be the good thing that it is that they are willing to harm their constituents to avoid it.

It’s hard for me to believe that Joe Hune actually believes that ER visits by the poor — visits that are avoidable if they receive primary care to keep them healthy — aren’t raising health care costs. He’s simply not that stupid. The man sits on the Health Policy Committee and is the chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, for crying out loud. The only thing that remains is that he is lying to appease his tea party constituents and using the lie to justify his sickening position. If that is indeed the case, shame on him. What he’s doing is wrong and its harming our most vulnerable citizens. And that includes almost 6,000 of his own constituents.