I’m here to admit it. I’m a health policy nerd. I danced around my office when Michigan received a very important Medicaid waiver and I’m pretty sure all of my friends are tired of me talking about the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Luckily this passion (and a fantastic opportunity) recently landed me a job with the League as a health policy analyst!I come to the League after nearly four years working on budget and health issues at the Michigan House of Representatives. To this day, my proudest professional accomplishment is my work on the development of Michigan’s Medicaid expansion program, or Healthy Michigan Plan, under the ACA. Working with a diverse coalition of business groups, healthcare advocates, and Republican and Democratic legislators, we were able to develop a comprehensive and unique system of providing healthcare to working people. To date, 646,745 people have enrolled and enrollees have made 2.8 million primary care visits, which has resulted in uncompensated care costs dropping by nearly half in Michigan hospitals. Medicaid expansion is just one important component of the Affordable Care Act—but it’s not the only thing.
Now the ACA often gets a bad rap and some people are confused by what benefits it brings to all consumers. For many, the effects of the ACA have been lifesaving. Just in Michigan, 977,000 people saw lifetime coverage limits disappear, women are now charged the same as men, and 70,000 young people have been able to stay on their parents’ insurance up to age 26.
The ACA has also had a positive effect on our economic health. According to a study from the University of Michigan, Medicaid expansion alone will generate 30,000 new jobs in the state every year and in 2017 the impact of expansion will result in upwards of $400 million dollars in state budget savings. The Healthy Michigan Plan added nearly $554 million to the state budget in 2016, its creation increased personal income an estimated $2.3 billion in the state. The Healthy Michigan Plan ensures that state money can be spent on education, replacing lead-tainted pipes in Flint and other pressing needs. That’s all in addition to keeping workers healthy and productive.
At the League, we’ve heard several stories on the lifesaving and cost-saving benefits of the ACA: individuals with asthma or diabetes who were only able to find coverage that came with astronomical costs; a young Michigan worker who had to battle cancer and would’ve gone broke doing so without being able to stay on his parents’ health insurance; and small business owners who despite an increase in premiums received a tax credit and drastically reduced their costs for their employees’ healthcare. Even I have benefitted from the ACA, as I first entered a tough job market and was able to stay on my parents’ insurance as I searched for a job right here in Michigan.
Republicans in Congress promised a repeal bill on President Donald Trump’s desk on his first day in office. And now, because of individuals and advocates telling their stories and pressuring their members of Congress, the date for repeal has been delayed. And keep contacting your members of Congress and telling them why we cannot have repeal without replacement that covers the same amount of people with the same level of quality. You can reach your members of Congress by calling 202-224-3121. Let’s make sure that the nearly 1 million people in Michigan who have directly received healthcare through the ACA don’t lose their coverage and that millions more can continue to benefit from it.
— Emily Schwarzkopf