Michigan Republicans — May 1, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Medicaid Expansion: A Prescription for a Healthy Michigan


Michigan Republicans are the only ones who think it’s a bitter pill.

The evidence that Medicaid expansion is in the best interests of Michigan and its citizens keeps stacking up. Even Governor Rick Snyder gets it. But Michigan Republicans continue digging in their heels, trying every unsubstantiated excuse in the book to block expansion.

As I wrote here previously in a two-part series, Medicaid expansion would deliver measurable benefits to the state, insuring up to 730,000 uninsured Michiganders with the help of $1 billion in federal funding, creating 18,000 jobs and about $2.1 billion in economic activity.

Apparently, those aren’t good enough reasons for the Michigan GOP to take the money and run with a program that could boost the physical, emotional and economic health of our state.

I spoke with Marjorie Mitchell, Executive Director of Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network (MICHUHCAN), a statewide network of health advocates, healthcare professionals and citizen supporters, who said:

From MICHUHCAN’s perspective — and a human perspective — having 1.3 million uninsured and hundreds of thousands more [in Michigan] under stress and on the verge of poverty trying to afford insurance is inexcusable. Healthcare is something we all need, and one of the opportunities we have to reduce the pain and suffering from inaccessibility of healthcare is to accept the federal dollars to expand our Medicaid program.

We are one state, and we have to figure out a way to work together. If we all have a goal of a healthy Michigan, the only question is how we get there — and the federal money is a way to get there.

What’s not to like about Medicaid expansion?
Mitchell doesn’t understand the resistance to Medicaid expansion being voiced by many in the Michigan legislature, especially when Medicaid expansion is fully sustainable through tax dollars Michigan citizens already pay to the federal government. Plus, there’s widespread support for Medicaid expansion in the medical community and among citizens.

In fact, a new poll by EPIC-MRA found that 60 percent of Michigan voters back expanding Medicaid — a figure that jumps to 74 percent if “personal responsibility” reforms being considered by some Michigan Republicans are included.

The poll revealed that 57 percent of Michigan voters are following the issue closely. That’s good news, because knowledge is essential to fight misinformation campaigns.

For instance, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy asserts that Medicaid expansion won’t create any jobs, says Mitchell. Claims that there are no economic benefits are simply not true. As Mitchell explains:

A greater need for services means more jobs. Plus, when people are sick it’s harder for them to find and keep a job; it’s harder for kids in school who are sick to do well. Improving the health of the people of Michigan helps them contribute more to our society.

The 600 voters EPIC-MRA polled in April understand the economic benefits. When asked a question that included additional information about how much money Michigan would save, support for Medicaid expansion ticked up to 62 percent.

Although some of the proposed “personal responsibility” reforms may be tough on individuals and families whose income is low enough to qualify them for Medicaid expansion — such as asking them to pay a portion of their premium or co-pays for prescription medicines — they do generate even more voter support.

This support proves Mitchell’s point that there are areas of compromise to be found. Michigan voters certainly can see them, based on the results of the EPIC-MRA poll.

Keep the focus on what matters most: Michigan’s people.
A campaign spearheaded by United Way for Southeastern Michigan is showing similar support among Michiganders, with more than 1,000 citizens contacting their state legislators — a number that’s undoubtedly grown since it was first reported a few weeks ago. Their campaign gets at the heart of why Medicaid expansion is so important, by underscoring the struggles of families who live without health insurance. This blog post and video give more details.

There’s also new evidence showing that Medicaid expansion could help reduce Michigan’s alarmingly high infant mortality rate. According to the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP), two babies die every day in Michigan. This is largely due to poor continuity of care — something Medicaid expansion would resolve. Here, in part, is what the MLPP had to say in a recent report:

Roughly half of all Michigan births were eligible for Medicaid in 2010. The problem is that almost half of these uninsured low-income women, who are at the highest risk for unhealthy births, were eligible only during the pregnancy. The Medicaid expansion would allow access to care for more women before and between pregnancies, improving women’s health, birth outcomes and overall infant/child health.

Medicaid expansion can save lives — and money. Individuals who do buy insurance pay more when people without insurance use the emergency room instead of seeing a family doctor. Hospitals lose money when they treat people who can’t afford to pay.

There are literally billions of reasons to expand Medicaid, in terms of dollars and cents, and hundreds of thousands of reasons if you consider the lives of Michigan citizens.

This is why every one of us has to express our support for Medicaid expansion. MICHUHCAN’s Mitchell says it best:

I want to remind everyone this is government of, for, and by the people. We’re not powerless. We can speak up and let the Michigan legislature know we have an expectation for a healthy Michigan by giving people access to healthcare, which is what Medicaid expansion does. We need to understand our power and use it when necessary.

There are a number of petitions you can sign to make your voice heard:

You can also contact your state Representative and Senator directly.

Let Michigan’s decision-makers know that saying YES to Medicaid expansion is good for the health of Michigan’s people and its economy.