“It is sensible public policy to tap federal funds already set aside to expand preventive and life-saving health care under Medicaid,” said Mike Vizena, executive director, Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards.
Expansion represents the best single opportunity to improve access to behavioral health-care services for Michigan’s citizens most in need, he added.
Paul Tarr, a legislative liaison for the Department of Community Health, agreed.
“It is my belief Medicaid reform will definitely help people with mental and physical disabilities,” said Tarr.
Cuts to general fund support for mental health and substance use disorder services during the past decade “have resulted in a lack of access, reduction of services and creation of waiting lists for persons without Medicaid,” Vizena said.
As a result, he said persons with emerging mental health and substance use disorders are not seen for care and end up in emergency room and hospitals “where their cost of care is 20 times greater” than if they had Medicaid coverage.
“Far too often these citizens wind up in criminal justice proceedings, or, in some cases, become homeless places where they do not belong and where they will not receive the care they need,” he said.
Last month, a House subcommittee removed Gov. Snyder’s proposed Medicaid expansion from its budget and in mid-April a Senate subcommittee did the same. The bills are SB198 and HB4213. Lawmakers in the state House and Senate are facing a June 1 self-imposed deadline to finish the state budget.
Efforts are under way by Michigan hospitals, mental health care providers, physicians, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Small Business Association of Michigan and the Michigan Business and Professional Association to lobby Republicans who oppose Medicaid expansion to change their minds.
Studies have shown Michigan could save $1 billion in healthcare health care expenditures if it expands Medicaid to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Michigan could receive $2 billion in federal funds during the next decade to finance those who become eligible for Medicaid such as the mentally ill. Snyder has said expanding Medicaid also will help some businesses with 50 provide coverage for workers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“The Michigan House of Representatives has supported this but the Senate, at this time, is worried about the federal government going to the extreme as far as its authority to cover costs of Medicaid reform,” said Tarr.
Cuts to general fund support for mental health and substance use disorder services during the past decade have resulted in a lack of access, reduction of services and creation of waiting lists for a person without private insurance or Medicaid, he noted.
“In time, I think Michigan will reform Medicaid,” Tarr said. “I support Medicaid reform and the Senate needs time to let it seep like a good cup of tea.”
Last month, a House subcommittee removed Snyder’s proposed Medicaid expansion from its budget and in mid-April a Senate subcommittee did the same. The bills are SB198 and HB4213.
Vizena also said expanding Medicaid would:
n Help local community hospitals. “If the Michigan Legislature does not support Medicaid expansion, lawmakers jeopardize the financial stability of local hospitals across the state.”
n Provide health care for thousands of hard-working, low-income residents.
n Require the federal government to cover the full cost of expansion through 2016, before gradually reducing funding to 90 percent by 2020.
n Protect more than 300,000 of Michigan’s most vulnerable residents in the next year alone; decrease the rate of emergency room visits that drive up health care costs for everyone and save the state millions a year in state spending.
n Possibly create 18,000 new health-care jobs and generate $2.1 billion in new economic activity in Michigan.
“Expansion represents the best single opportunity to improve access to behavioral health-care services for Michigan’s citizens most in need,” Vizena said.
Jerry Wolffe is the Disability Rights Advocate/Writer in Residence at MORC Inc., a nonprofit that provides services to 5,100 people with disabilities in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties.