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UMHS applauds signing of Healthy Michigan Act, looks forward to serving new Medicaid patients

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Hundreds of thousands more Michiganders will soon have access to health coverage, under the Healthy Michigan Act signed into law today.

And the University of Michigan Health System stands ready to help provide the care they need – especially the advanced specialty care that UMHS is known for.

UMHS leaders welcomed the signing of the act, which will allow the state to accept federal support to help fund the care of an estimated 470,000 uninsured Michiganders who earn more than the current income limits for Medicaid. The funding was authorized under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“I applaud our elected representatives in Lansing for doing the right thing for the citizens of our state by approving Medicaid expansion,” says Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., U-M executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of UMHS. “Increasing Medicaid coverage will provide better, more timely care to more people, while reducing health care costs by allowing people to get preventive care, instead of seeking care in emergency rooms, the most expensive place for treatment. The Healthy Michigan Act will improve the health of our citizens and of our economy.”

Doug Strong, CEO of the U-M Hospitals and Health Centers, added his praise for the act, which he says will allow UMHS to continue in its role as a safety net for the advanced health care needs of all patients regardless of their health coverage status.

“We have a long tradition of serving patients from every county of our state, and from neighboring states, who have Medicaid coverage and need our advanced care,” he explains. “We look forward to welcoming even more of these patients as Medicaid expands in Michigan, and salute the legislature and governor for moving to cover hundreds of thousands more Michigan working families, veterans, parents and others under the Healthy Michigan Act.”

UMHS accepts most Medicaid plans in Michigan, and all Medicaid plans in the state cover advanced specialty care at UMHS for patients who need it.

Expanded coverage helps hospitals help patients

In addition to being good for individuals and their families, expanded Medicaid coverage will help UMHS and other Michigan hospitals, clinics and health systems receive more adequate payment for the care they provide.

UMHS provides about 10 percent of the $1.9 billion in uncompensated medical treatment provided by hospitals in the state -- including charity care, discounts and the difference between the cost of care and reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. UMHS-provided uncompensated care has risen 42 percent in five years.

At the same time, the federal government will be reducing payments to hospitals that care for a disproportionate share of uninsured patients.

Although UMHS doesn’t expect to recoup the full cost of care for Medicaid participants who come to UMHS, the increased coverage will reduce the amount of uncompensated care UMHS absorbs.

Helping patients enroll in programs they qualify for

For newly eligible Michiganders to get Medicaid coverage under the Healthy Michigan Act, they will need to enroll in the expanded program. The start date for enrollment is not yet known.

Other Michiganders whose incomes are too high for expanded Medicaid coverage may be able to get federal subsidies and tax credits to help them pay for the plans they buy through the federal Health Insurance Exchange, also called the Marketplace. Enrollment starts October 1 for these plans. Most Americans must have health insurance or pay a penalty by 2015.

UMHS has been designated by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as a Certified Application Counselor Organization. Seventeen Patient Financial Counselors will help UMHS patients and their family members, and community residents, navigate expanded Medicaid and the Marketplace plans. Patients can meet with financial counselors at U-M’s East Ann Arbor, Brighton and Ypsilanti health centers, the Kellogg Eye Center and at various locations throughout the main UMHS medical campus -- including a new Patient Business Services Center near the connector between the Taubman Center and the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

UMHS was also a founding supporter of the Washtenaw Health Initiative, which has been working since 2011 to enroll more eligible Washtenaw County residents in Medicaid. WHI will now amplify enrollment efforts that county agencies will make through outreach to children, teens and their parents, and immigrant families, in Washtenaw and Livingston counties about getting or keeping coverage. Learn more at www.washtenawhealthinitiative.org

The U-M research role

The new Healthy Michigan Act includes provisions drawn directly from U-M research on the impact of health insurance co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses.

U-M researchers including A. Mark Fendrick, M.D., a professor in both the U-M Medical School and School of Public Health, have shown how reducing co-pays on specific medications and preventive services can help ensure that chronically ill patients get the care that has been proven to help them most. The new law permits health plans to waive co-pays “to promote greater access to services that prevent the progression and complications related to chronic diseases.” The U-M Center for Value Based Insurance Design has issued further information about the value-based provisions in the new law. Read more at www.vbidcenter.org .

A large new U-M institute focused on studying health care delivery and policy will also play a role.

“As our state’s uninsured residents gain access to coverage through Medicaid and the federal insurance exchange, we have an unprecedented opportunity to study the impact on the health of individuals and communities and on the clinics and hospitals that serve them,” says John Ayanian, M.D., MPP, who has just joined U-M full-time as director of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. “Many researchers in our institute are eager to begin gathering and studying the data that will help us understand these landmark reforms in American health care coverage – and guide policy-makers in Michigan and the nation.” More about IHPI: www.ihpi.umich.edu

For more about how the U-M Health System is growing and innovating amid rapid change in health care, visit http://www.uofmhealth.org/umhs-aca

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