By Alexa McCarthy
Ingham County Chronicle
The Ingham Health Plan is asking county residents to vote to renew their millage on the Nov. 4 election.
The proposal seeks to continue a .52-mill levy (52 cents per $1,000 of assessed value) until 2019. The millage would cost an owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 only $26 per year. If levied in full, the millage will raise $3.4 million in the first year. The millage funds the Ingham Health Plan which is seeks to provide health-care for lower-income county residents.
The millage was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2012 as a way to address the gap between eligibility for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. The health services millage pays for no-frills medical care for residents who earn less than $28,000, are not eligible for Medicaid, the state’s Healthy Michigan plan, do not receive insurance through an employer or cannot afford to buy private health insurance.
While the millage may only be a few years old, the Ingham Health Plan has been serving uninsured county residents since 1998. The slogan for the plan is “A Hand Up, Not a Handout,” and is seen as a safety net.
Alex Vanis, owner of the Coral Gables restaurant in East Lansing, says that many of his employees get their insurance through the county. “Usually, I don’t vote for millages,” said Vanis. “But I understand this one, because health insurance is expensive and we can’t afford to provide it for our employees.” He says that he will be voting yes to reauthorize the millage because he says understands the importance of a healthy workforce for not only his own business but also the local economy.
Even with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and expanded Medicaid in Michigan, thousands are still unable to afford basic health care and services. Officials project that health insurance premiums in Michigan are to rise by 9 to 15 percent in 2015.
If the millage is passed the county will continue to help pay for access to doctors visits, generic medications, preventative testing and treatment for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other serious illnesses. According to officials, between Oct. 1, 2012 and June 30, 2014 the Ingham Health Plan provided more than 6,000 preventative consultations and treatments such as mammograms, colonoscopies, blood tests and pap smears.
Lansing has a large immigrant and refugee population that benefit from the millage. Guadalupe Angelina Ramirez-Ortega has worked at the Coral Gables as a dishwasher for six years and just recently switched to the Ingham Health Plan. She speaks little English and because of the plan has been able to a doctor that speaks Spanish at Cristo Rey Family Health Center. Speaking in Spanish, Ramirez-Ortega said, “The plan and the services are very good for me and my family. Being able to to go to a Spanish-speaking doctor is very helpful.”
By Ingham County residents voting to reauthorize the millage, it also saves money for the insured. The plan seeks to decrease the demand for expensive emergency room services that uninsured residents often have to go through to get medical treatment. These services often go uncompensated and
according to officials, county families with health insurance end up paying approximately $1,000 per year in uncompensated care costs. The plan seeks to control these costs by giving the uninsured options from the ER.
Residents will not be paying an additional tax, rather it is extending a program already in place and helping thousands receive medical care.