Healthier and Wealthier: The Story of Healthy Michigan

Posted: October 5, 2015
It is time to celebrate and shout from the rooftops: the Healthy Michigan Plan is an outstanding success. Thanks to the leadership and vision of Governor Snyder, more than 600,000 previously uninsured Michiganders now have access to comprehensive affordable health care. As a fiscal conservative, the Governor understands the positive state budget and overall economic impacts of the hundreds of millions in federal funds that are flowing into the state each year thanks to the Healthy Michigan Plan. It saves the state budget $220 million annually because the Plan now funds the state’s critical services, previously paid with state funds, such as, community mental health care. Shifting these costs to federal tax funds frees up more state funding of the budget for other essential state needs. It also gives consumers better, more comprehensive care for mental health needs. With better care, more residents can experience fuller, more productive lives, while lowering costs associated with better quality services. Over the next decade, thousands of jobs will be created and thousands more will keep their jobs because of more funds flowing to hospitals, primary care doctors, and other health care professionals. This will also generate tens of millions of dollars each year in additional state revenue. The budget savings and increased revenues are vitally important as state lawmakers struggle to develop a plan to pay for our roads, bridges, and mass transportation needs. The benefits of the Healthy Michigan Plan exceed dollars and cents. Now more Michiganders are getting the care they need to live healthy, productive lives. Since the start of the program on April 1, 2014, more than 455,000 people have had at least one primary care visit through their new coverage, 174,000 individuals have had preventive care visits, and more than 52,000 mammograms and 27,000 colonoscopies have been covered. Preventing, finding, and treating illnesses early are fundamental to lowering costs in the future. Despite its overwhelming success, some propose eliminating the Healthy Michigan Plan. This cut would mean that nearly 600,000 of our family members, friends, and neighbors will lose coverage and regular care. Most would again be forced to seek help in hospital emergency rooms, leaving them with expensive bills that they cannot pay. As bill collectors chase low-income patients down, the majority of unpaid bills would have to be covered the way they were before the Healthy Michigan Plan. The cost would be passed on to the state government, the insured and businesses. Increased premiums and deductibles, higher costs for procedures and supplies, and losses in productivity associated with poor, uncoordinated access to healthcare would return. Not long after, costs would rise faster for everyone. The cuts would lead to hospital and clinic closures or downsizing due to inadequate revenue. Many shuttered facilities will be in rural counties with no options for miles. Higher paying jobs and critical local economic engines would have to leave entire areas of Michigan. Governor Snyder worked tirelessly to carve Michigan’s path out of the chaotic and inefficient world of unaffordable coverage for working individuals who struggle to make ends meet. Facts are replacing baseless fears. Consumers are paying their co-pays and accessing preventative care. They are using well-designed incentives for weight loss, smoking cessation, and exercise, to name a few healthy behaviors that will further lower costs for all. And they understand the value of coverage, as enrollment numbers show. Beyond all the practical benefits the Healthy Michigan Plan brings to our state, the carefully designed program is beginning to steer us away from the unsustainable, increasing costs of a healthcare system that was oriented toward disease treatment instead of prevention or timely, coordinated care. Abandoning course would not only severely damage our budget and economy while raising costs for all. It would return us to the dangerous wilderness of being uninsured, where life or death can boil down to a matter of ZIP code and income.