In this polarizing time, there are few things that most Americans — or Michiganders — can agree on in a bipartisan manner.
One thing we all agree on, unfortunately is that our health system needs major improvements. It is failing many Michigan residents through high out-of-pocket costs and limited access to quality healthcare.
A new survey from ALG Research and Michigan Researchers Associates Inc. (EPIC- MRA), on behalf of Consumers for Quality Care, reveals that voters see affordability and access to quality care as major issues in the state’s health care system.
The coronavirus pandemic put even more stress on our nation’s health care infrastructure and exposed serious flaws in the system for patients.
The central issue is how much Americans pay for health insurance.
77% of Michiganders believe that the cost of health care is increasing each year. Majorities are worried about their ability to pay high deductibles (74%), get a surprise medical bill (72%), and being able afford their monthly premium (58%).
Residents of color are among the most affected by high healthcare costs in Michigan. For example, more than 25% of all voters have unpaid medical bills. However, this number jumps to one third of all Black voters.
Immigrant families are another population that Michigan has that requires significant health care.
We have witnessed firsthand how the pandemic has impacted on our immigrant community members in Michigan. Many immigrants who qualify for affordable health coverage are still not insured due to enrollment barriers. This includes language and literacy issues.
There is still fear about the public charge rule being changed in the past. Eligible families should feel confident that they can access care. Many immigrants rely on ACCESS and other community organizations to provide a safety net. Others are often left without the care they need.
More than 70% of both Democrats & Republicans polled supported expanding or maintaining the Healthy Michigan Plan. 59% wanted Congress to make specific fixes that built on the existing system and not transform it.
As such, the conversation at state and federal levels should be on continuing and even expanding successful elements of Healthy Michigan and the Affordable Care Act — such as tax credits in the ACA Marketplace and a boost in access to mental health and substance use disorder services — to support more residents who desperately need it.
The Build Back Better plan — before Congress right now — seeks to reduce the public’s marketplace deductibles and other cost-sharing.
With 90% of Michigan voters saying they agree insurance deductibles should be low enough that they don’t get in the way of getting needed health care, there should be more policies like that that lower out-of-pocket costs and ensure insurance acts like insurance and is there when you need it.
There is also the issue as to how Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the Michigan Legislature, and the American Rescue Plan will work together to use federal money to invest in Michigan residents’ health care.
Gov. Whitmer — through the MI Healthy Communities plan — has proposed using the funds in a variety of ways, from increased mental health support to boosting funding for community-based services, substance use disorder treatment, autism intervention, telemedicine infrastructure, and more. She also suggested funding for the much-needed infrastructure improvements in health care, as well as investing millions in community health workers and local public health departments.
As that funding is debated and eventually dispersed throughout Michigan, the goal should be to focus spending on community-based efforts that will most positively impact the lives and health of Michigan residents still navigating the pandemic and the most glaring inadequacies of our current health care system — and should make our health insurance more affordable.
Alex Rossman serves as the Michigan League for Public Policy’s director of external affairs. Asraa Alhawli works as the Public Health Coordinator at ACCESS Community Health and Research Center.
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