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Announcement on Medicaid expansion application expected in mid-March

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Baris Muratoglu

From Gonger News Service Community Health Director James Haveman told a House subcommittee on Wednesday that he hoped to be able to announce by mid-March when individuals could apply for Medicaid coverage under expanded eligibility requirements enacted by the Legislature in 2013.

 Once an announcement is made, he expected people should be able to actually sign up in April, with their coverage effective still effective on April 1, Mr. Haveman said to reporters after the meeting with the House Community Health Appropriations Subcommittee.

 The subcommittee was told that some 60,000 people would be enrolled into Medicaid under the expanded eligibility requirements.

AARP Michigan has been a strong advocate of expanding Medicaid to uninsured Michiganders, including about 75,000 residents age 50 to 64 who don't yet qualify for Medicare.

 And Steve Fitton, head of the Medical Services Administration in the Department of Community Health, said that outside the expanded eligibility for Medicaid the state had seen a significant decrease in the total number of people getting Medicaid as the economy has improved.

 Mr. Fitton also said that despite current worries that companies have dropped health care coverage because of the advent of the federal Affordable Care Act, the facts are that companies have been dropping health care coverage for more than a decade because of the increasing cost of private coverage. Health insurance premiums have more than doubled in the last decade.

 In contrast, total premium costs for Medicaid have gone up by some 30 percent during the same period, which is also far less than the percentage of total national health care costs.

 From 2000 to 2012, the number of Medicaid recipients went from 10 percent of the state’s population to 19 percent, while the number of people covered by employer-based coverage went from 78 percent to 64 percent. The percentage of people uninsured went from 9 percent to 13 percent in the same time, Mr. Fitton said.

 The DCH budget is the largest budget in the state, with the largest portion of that going for Medicaid coverage. For 2014-15, Gov. Rick Snyder called for a total budget of $17.4 billion, with $2.9 billion in General Funds.

 The budget forecasts a total Medicaid population of just over 2 million people, but some 200,000 of those would join the program under the expanded Medicaid eligibility.

 Otherwise, the state is forecasting a Medicaid population of 1.82 million people. That is nearly 100,000 fewer people than the total population in 2010 when the state was still largely gripped by the Great Recession.

 In 2002, the total Medicaid population was closer to 1.25 million. The population grew steadily and quickly as the economy worsened, Mr. Fitton said, so that basic Medicaid has seen a population drop is testament to the economy improving.

 Expanded Medicaid eligibility was enacted in 2013 following a difficult legislative process, and requires that participants take greater responsibility for their health care and general health status.

 That should help raise the overall health indicators for the state as that population gets healthier, Mr. Fitton said.

 But the Legislature failed to give the enacting statute immediate effect, so individuals cannot enroll until the act takes effect March 14.

 Mr. Fitton said as the state has been preparing for the open enrollment, up to 60,000 people have been enrolled, but their coverage will be not effective until April 1.

 Mr. Haveman said because of problems the federal government ran into when it opened up coverage through he wanted to be certain there would be no problems when the state opened enrollment on the expanded Medicaid eligibility.

 As development on the system continues, Mr. Haveman said he was confident the state would be able to announce a beginning date in mid-March.

 It would probably be a couple weeks at least between the announcement and when enrollment actually begins, Mr. Haveman said.

 But if, for example, enrollment opened on April 10, he said, coverage would be effective on April 1.

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