Michigan rollout of low-income health care exceeds expectations

Capital News Service
LANSING – In only three weeks the state’s Medicaid expansion program that gives health coverage to low-income residents is almost halfway to its yearly signup goal. The Healthy Michigan program started enrolling low-income residents for comprehensive health coverage on April 1. By April 21, nearly 140,000 people had signed up for the plan – 43 percent of the 320,000 people the state hoped would enroll by the end of the year. Coverage under Healthy Michigan provides all services required by federal standards, such as emergency services, maternity care and mental health treatment. The program’s rapid success is a pleasant surprise, said Angela Minicuci, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Questions remain about legal services for the poor

Capital News Service
LANSING — Lawmakers have taken a step toward standardizing legal representation for low-income people accused of crimes. The proposal by Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester, would establish an independent Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to issue minimum standards to ensure the constitutional rights of defendants who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. “We have to be more ensuring that there is a reasonable defense for the indigents,” McMillin said. According to a recent report by a state advisory commission, problems in the current system include a heavy workload for lawyers, lack of independence and lack of experience among those handling complex cases. Meanwhile, each county determines what level of service is adequate and how each county will fund it.

Home heating aid funds drop despite downturn

Capital News Service
LANSING – A new Vulnerable Household Warmth Fund in the Department of Human Services is temporarily replacing a decade-old state program to help low-income residents heat their homes this winter. The fund will provide $58 million to help consumers pay their gas and electric bills. That’s less than $87 million available last year and $89 million in 2010 when the program was under the public service commission, according to its reports. “With the cuts to the fund, many seniors and low-income residents will be paying more to keep their homes warm in the months ahead,” said Judy Putnam, the communications director of the Michigan League for Human Services, an advocacy group. “While the Vulnerable Household Warmth Fund is better than no assistance, it was a ‘fix’ to something that was never broken,” she said.