Michigan's expanded Medicaid program starts today
By Jake Neher
Michigan's Medicaid expansion is officially up and running. That means hundreds of thousands of low-income Michiganders are now eligible for government-sponsored health care.
People making 133% of the federal poverty level or less are now eligible for the program, which is part of the federal Affordable Care Act. That's about $15,000 dollars or less a year for an individual and about $32,000 or less for a family of four.
Arindray Brown was one of the first people to apply for the "Healthy Michigan" program on Tuesday at a Department of Human Services (DHS) service center on Detroit's East Side. She says she is forced to rely on the emergency room for medical care - but those bills are expensive.
"I can't afford to pay them," said Brown. "So, therefore, I'm leaning on the taxpayers. And I hate that, because I feel like I can carry my own. But I can't afford a hospital bill - and I don't even have a job."
"So, with this program, it makes me eligible to get the kind of medical care that I need."
State officials say they are also kicking off an aggressive outreach campaign to get more people like Brown to sign up.
"It always amazes me the number of people who are eligible who just don't know about it," said Michigan Department of Community Health Director Jim Haveman. "So we've got a great marketing campaign here to get that information out. We want people to sign up."
The state hopes to add more than 300,000 people to its Medicaid rolls by this time next year.
The federal health care law covers the entire cost of Michigan's Medicaid expansion for the first three years. It will pay as low as 90% of the program after that. Michigan officials will have to demonstrate that the program is saving the state enough money to cover that remaining 10%, or the expanded portion of the Medicaid program will end.