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.

Counties look to Medicaid to slow mental health costs

Capital News Service
LANSING – Jail inmates’ mental health costs will continue to rise without an expansion of Medicaid, according to sheriff’s departments across the state. In 2012, the Allegan County Jail spent about $15,250, averaging about $1,270 per month to improve mental health, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department said. In March of this year, mental health services for inmates cost about $2,400, almost double the monthly average of 2012, the department said. Ann Russell, the corrections administrator at Oakland County Jail, said her sheriff’s office spends about $1.3 million annually on inmate mental health services, including the cost of medications. “The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office has been working for many years to assist in reducing the jail’s cost for mental health services,” Russell said.

Medicaid expansion would increase vets' health options

Capital News Service
LANSING — While the Legislature wrestles with a recent House decision not to expand state health care for poor families through the Medicaid program, experts say roughly 20,000 veterans will also be left uninsured if the decision sticks. “They’re going to be left out in the cold,” said Jan Hudson, a health care policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy, which does research and advocacy regarding social issues like poverty, education and health. The House recently rejected Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to expand Medicaid coverage despite available federal funding for the program. According to the league, veterans in rural areas would benefit the most from the expansion because they would be able to use local hospitals in addition to sometimes-distant VA clinics. The league says there are 19 rural counties with federal community-based health clinics for veterans, yet there are 57 rural counties with veterans.

More long-term care options pushed

Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan can improve long-term care by providing more home and community-based services as alternatives to nursing home care, AARP Michigan says, but an industry group cautions that nursing facilities are crucial to the state’s health care system. According to the AARP, 35 states spend fewer Medicaid dollars on nursing home care than Michigan. Those states’ services include aides and nurses who visit seniors in their homes. Lisa Cooper, manager of advocacy at AARP Michigan, said, “Michigan currently spends only 21.6 percent of our long-term care budget for older adults and people with disabilities on home and community-based services. We spend 78.4 percent of our long-term care dollars on nursing home care.”
The report said nursing homes are expensive and becoming more so.

Health benefits combined for the older low income

Capital News Service
LANSING – Although the state could move dual-eligible Medicare and Medicaid individuals into a new system, most beneficiaries don’t realize the upcoming changes to their benefits, according to a new survey. Michigan is one of 15 states awarded a contract to develop an integrated plan that offers both high-quality and cost-effective care. Medicare provides health benefits to people older than 65, and Medicaid benefits are for low-income residents. People who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid benefits are called “dual eligible,” according to the Department of Community Health. If fully implemented, the program as proposed would integrate services and funding for more than 200,000 state residents enrolled in both programs, which cost the state and federal governments more than $8 billion annually, according to the department.

Dental program for children could expand statewide

Capital News Service
LANSING – Recent federal approval of a dental care program’s expansion into four more West Michigan counties may be the start of a larger push to make dental care available to low-income children statewide. The Healthy Kids Dental Program, which provides free care for Medicaid recipients under age 21, has expanded its services into Muskegon, Mason, Newaygo and Oceana counties. Thomas Veryser, chief executive of Michigan Community Dental Clinics in Boyne City, said Muskegon County alone has 22,000 children covered by Medicaid and Oceana has 4,000 eligible for the program. Veryser said the recent expansion of the program is a sign of bigger things to come. He said Gov. Rick Snyder made it clear in his Health and Wellness address last September that the program was a success and could soon become a state-funded endeavor.