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Uninsured Rate Plunged in Rural MI After Medicaid Expansion

A new report shows that rural areas in Michigan have particularly benefited from the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Flickr)
A new report shows that rural areas in Michigan have particularly benefited from the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Flickr)
October 2, 2018

LANSING, Mich. — The uninsured rate for low-income adults has plunged 22 points in rural areas of Michigan since the state expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act - dropping from 38 percent to 16 percent, according to a new report.

Researchers at Georgetown University and the University of North Carolina found that the uninsured rate dropped in the state's urban areas as well, to 13 percent. The ACA did this by providing federal funds to help states cover more people under the Medicaid program, known here as Healthy Michigan.

Joan Alker, report co-author and executive director at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said the ACA made an even bigger impact nationally.

"The major finding is that states that expanded Medicaid saw more than three times the rate of decline in the uninsured adult population in rural areas and small towns than those states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act,” Alker said.

State statistics show more than 650,000 people are currently enrolled in Healthy Michigan, and the program has served more than 1 million Michiganders since the state expanded Medicaid in 2014. States that did not expand Medicaid continue to face high levels of uninsurance, especially in depressed, rural areas.

The state Legislature passed a bill this summer requiring those on Healthy Michigan to work 80 hours a month, nine months a year, in order to maintain coverage. But Emily Schwarzkopf, a policy analyst with the Michigan League for Public Policy, called that a "one step forward, two steps back" approach, and predicted people will fall off the insurance rolls.

"There's lots of data out there that shows that people lose their coverage because they are unable to navigate the paperwork and the bureaucracy at the state government level,” Schwarzkopf said.

She noted several University of Michigan studies have shown that Healthy Michigan has allowed people to get back into the workforce without losing their coverage, and has thus expanded the tax base.

The federal government is currently processing the state's request for a waiver. If it is granted, the work requirements would take effect in 2020.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI