Affordable Care Act, healthcare, Obama — December 17, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Healthy Michigan Plan earns approval to continue customized Medicaid expansion program


Fantastic news for the 600,000 low-income Michiganders who rely on the program for their health insurance.

When the Michigan Legislature submitted their plans for a customized version of Medicaid expansion to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2013, there was no guarantee CMS would sign off on either of the waivers to require more “skin in the game” from beneficiaries. The first waiver was approved, allowing the Healthy Michigan plan to kick off in 2014. Higher-than-expected enrollment proved the need to provide assistance to Michigan’s low-income and working poor residents.

Since then, many healthcare advocates have been concerned about whether CMS would approve the second waiver by the December 31 deadline required by state law. The second waiver required even more participation from people who are insured under the Healthy Michigan Plan, which is available to eligible residents with incomes equal to up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

But today, Michigan got some excellent news: CMS has approved the second waiver and the Healthy Michigan Plan will continue without any disruption.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder had this to say in a statement:

The Healthy Michigan Plan has provided Michiganders with the opportunity to improve their health and wellness by enrolling in health care coverage. I’m proud of this program, our residents, and Michigan’s continued leadership in health care innovation. I appreciate the work of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services [sic] and thank it for its partnership and approval of our unique approach to keep Michigan moving forward.

To be fair, Gov. Snyder should also thank the mostly Democratic legislators and health reform advocates who fought hard to pass Medicaid expansion in Michigan.

The Healthy Michigan Plan has been heralded as a model that other Republican-led states can use to find a compromise to make Medicaid expansion palatable to legislators who are often opposed to the expansion on strictly ideological grounds — mostly, an intense dislike of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare.

Details of the second waiver are as follows: Starting April 1, 2018, Healthy Michigan Plan participants with incomes between 100 and 133 percent of the federal poverty level must work with their physician on strategies to lose weight, quit smoking or adopt other healthy behaviors. If they don’t, they must obtain health insurance through the marketplace.

Since its launch, the Healthy Michigan Plan has covered more than 1.7 million primary care visits. In addition, more than 59,000 beneficiaries have received mammograms and more than 32,000 have had colon cancer screenings.

Although some advocates balked at the increase in required participation by those in the program, encouraging healthy behaviors is a smart move — and it’s in keeping with the preventive principles of the ACA.

Nick Lyon, director for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, echoed these thoughts in a statement.

From the beginning, the primary goals of the Healthy Michigan Plan have been to promote healthy behaviors and encourage people to lead healthy, productive lives. The approved waiver goes a long way in helping us achieve those goals, and we are going to continue doing our part to ensure residents understand their benefits and how best to use them.

Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, one of the advocates behind Medicaid expansion, issued the following statement:

We are thrilled with the federal government’s approval of the second waiver today that will enable the Healthy Michigan Plan to continue. Like the more than 600,000 people who depend on the Healthy Michigan Plan for affordable healthcare, we were anxiously awaiting this decision, and this is tremendous news for our entire state.

As someone who has advocated for Michigan Medicaid expansion from day one, I could not have said it better myself.

Enrollment in the Healthy Michigan Plan is available year-round. Sign up online, at a local MDHHS office or by calling (855) 789-5610.