Expanding health care

This past Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder took a break from his U.P. family vacation to hold a press conference at Marquette General Hospital.

The topic was health care expansion and Healthy Michigan. As you may remember, the Lake Superior Community Partnership board of directors came out in support of health care legislation about two months ago. Since then, House Bill 4714 was approved by the Michigan House of Representatives with a strong bipartisan support.

Thank you to Rep. John Kivela for his support on this issue. The state Senate has not yet taken action on the bill. They currently have a work group on the plan. The governor has urged Senate leaders to set a date for a vote and to pass the legislation.

The expansion of Medicaid is vital to enhancing Michigan’s economic strength. It will allow for immense savings in the net cost of the state’s Medicaid program, a positive impact on state and local economies, as well as improve health, quality of life and mortality rates through increased coverage. As an Accredited Economic Development Organization, the Partnership believes any sound opportunity for advancing economic development is of significant importance to our community’s vitality.

We understand that the expansion of Medicaid in Michigan will retain and grow jobs along with the potential for other related businesses, as well as our neighbors, to prosper within our community.

Healthy Michigan is a plan to provide health insurance to half a million working Michigan residents who are in or near poverty. In the first year the plan would provide coverage to 322,000 individuals and after four years coverage would be provided for 470,000 individuals. Participants of the program would be given incentives to take responsibility for lifestyle choices and maintain or improve their health.

When those without health insurance get ill or injured, they tend to wait until their condition is so severe that they must visit the emergency room which can be expensive. The hospitals end up picking up the costs. As a result, individuals and businesses that provide coverage pay higher premiums to cover the costs.

Under Healthy Michigan, uninsured, working individuals will be able to visit a primary care doctor resulting in lower costs to our medical system. Michigan pays for a portion of health care services with state dollars.

If Healthy Michigan is passed, federal dollars will fund services providing a savings for $206 million to Michigan taxpayers in 2014.

One of employer’s top concerns is health care. This plan is expected to lower premiums and make them more consistent, both key for businesses and their employees.

Medicaid Expansion would have a significant effect on jobs and economic activity in the state.

In 2016, it is estimated that the addition of $1.3 billion in healthcare spending would support about 18,000 new jobs in Michigan (according to a report put out by Families USA and Michigan Consumers for Healthcare).

A wide range of industries across the state would see some benefit and a portion of these dollars and jobs will certainly wind up in the U.P.

Visit www.HealthyMichiganNow.com to sign the petition, contact a Senator or for more information on this topic. As always, you may visit www.marquette.org and visit our blog or our Healthcare Task Force page under Connect to Advocacy & Regulator Affairs.

Editor’s note: Amy Clickner is CEO?of the Lake Superior Community Partnership. Her twice-monthly column will address topics of interest to the local business community.