ANN ARBOR — In preparation for the October 1 opening of the health insurance markets, state Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) hosted a town hall Monday night at the Malletts Creek branch of the Ann Arbor District Library with information on how Michigan residents can get affordable health coverage.
About 80 audience members learned how to register for health insurance via healthcare.gov, if they do not already receive insurance through their employer or through Medicaid or Medicare. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that every citizen have health insurance in 2014, and the healthcare.gov website provides a way to shop for insurance and use tax credits to help pay for it.
“Everyone deserves access to medical care when they need it, and the Affordable Care Act helps ensure that people will have a way to pay for it,” Rep. Irwin said, noting that the state’s expansion of Medicaid using federal dollars will mean that 14,500 more Washtenaw residents will have health insurance next year. He added that he was disappointed that the Michigan Senate did not vote to put the Medicaid expansion into immediate effect. The delay means hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents will not be able to benefit from the expanded Medicaid eligibility until sometime in April, and the state will lose out on about $7 million in federal funds for each day of delay.
Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation (CHRT), gave a detailed presentation on how to get coverage under the new law, either through Medicaid or the exchange. She explained that the law requires insurance plans to cover all basic areas of health care, such as mental health, preventative medicine and maternity care. CHRT estimates that the percentage of Michigan’s non-elderly population that is uninsured will fall from 14 percent in 2013 to 10 percent in 2014 due to the ACA.
Washtenaw Health Plan Director Ellen Rabinowitz told the audience how to find help signing up for insurance. In addition to the 24 hour helpline at healthcare.gov (1-800-318-2596), she encouraged people to contact one of the four groups in Michigan that have trained healthcare Navigators: Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, American Indian Health and Family Services of Southeast Michigan, Community Bridges Management or Michigan Consumers for Healthcare. To avoid scams, she advised people not to respond to anyone contacting them by phone or email with offers of assistance signing up for insurance.
Under the ACA, people making up to four times the Federal Poverty Level ($94,200 for a family of four) will be eligible for tax credits to help pay for insurance on the exchange. Once the Medicaid expansion is in place, people making up to 138 percent of the FPL ($32,500 for a family of four) will qualify for Medicaid. The federal government is covering all of the additional costs of this expansion of Medicaid for three years.