Mich. Gov. Renewing Push for Health Coverage for Uninsured

May 12, 2006

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is renewing a push to provide affordable health insurance to cover uninsured Michigan residents.

Granholm, first unveiled the proposal in January, was expected to talk more about her plan while visiting a Lansing hospital.

State Department of Community Health Director Janet Olszewski provided details of the proposal on May 10, saying the eventual goal is universal health care coverage.

Granholm’s plan would cover 550,000, or half, of the state’s uninsured non-elderly residents with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line. That’s $38,700 for a family of four and $19,140 for a single person. Participants would be charged premiums and copays on a sliding scale.

Olszewski told The Associated Press in an interview that the proposal also would provide more affordable insurance plans to small businesses with uninsured workers, and that Granholm eventually would like to expand the plan to partly subsidize those above 200 percent of the poverty line.

To pay for the $1 billion Michigan First Health Care Plan – which Granholm wants to launch in April 2007 – the state is asking the federal government for a waiver to use $600 million in federal money that has been saved by changing the state’s Medicaid prescription drug and fee-for-service plans to less costly alternatives. The rest would come from money the state and local governments already spend on covering the uninsured.

Negotiations are ongoing.

Olszewski said those participating in the plan would get health care through private insurers, and benefits would include preventive and primary care, emergency room visits, hospital services and prescription drugs.

“It’s going to cover the basic kinds of health care that people need,” she said.

The initial target is adults who aren’t eligible for Medicaid and earn between 35 percent and 200 percent of the poverty level. Signing up uninsured parents also is expected to reach 95,000 uninsured children in Michigan who currently qualify for Medicaid or the state’s health insurance program for children, but who aren’t enrolled.

Some Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature have expressed skepticism about the governor’s plan, saying the state should put more emphasis on encouraging healthy behavior.

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