Testimony: Support for Medicaid Expansion and MI Health Marketplace

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February 21, 2013

Senator John Moolenaar

Chairman, Community Health Appropriations Subcommittee

Vice-Chair, Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee

RE:     SUPPORT FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION AND MI HEALTH MARKETPLACE

 

Dear Senator Moolenaar:

Thank you very much for allowing me to testify today regarding Medicaid expansion. My name is Elizabeth Lamoste. I am a third-year student at the University of Michigan Law School and I have a background in health policy analysis. I am a board member of the Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network (MICHUHCAN). MICHUHCAN is a nonprofit that focuses on health policy education and advocacy. We launched a campaign called Medicaid Matters for Michigan in January. Our campaign’s objective is to communicate to our elected officials, including you, the simple message that Medicaid Expansion Makes Sense for Michigan. We ardently urge you to support Governor Snyder’s proposal to include Medicaid expansion in the budget. We also urge you to appropriate funding for the MI Health Marketplace.

In less than a month, we collected over 4,500 petition signatures from Michiganders all across the state in support of Medicaid expansion and delivered them to Governor Snyder’s office. In January, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network released a survey finding that Michiganders favor Medicaid expansion by a 40-point margin.

As I talk to people about Medicaid expansion, they often, and rightly so, ask me about the policy arguments against Medicaid expansion. Provider capacity has been cited as an issue, but support from the provider community and the recent Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation provider survey illustrate that providers are willing to take on the challenge and opportunity of expanding access to care.

There is also concern about whether the federal government will actually fund Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act, which is good law. President Obama has publicly declared his commitment to Medicaid. And to speak in hypothetical terms for just a second, in the very small chance that Medicaid expansion is sacrificed as the President and Congress deal with the budget, there is no indication that states would be forced to bear the cost burden of expansion. If the federal government can’t afford it, it’s hard to believe that they would expect states to be able to afford it. So, where is the harm in signing on now?

I want to conclude by focusing the discussion on the people who matter most – the hundreds of thousands who are suffering because they are uninsured and can benefit from Medicaid expansion. These people live all across the state. They are our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers, and our dear friends. They deserve better, and we can do better right now. We launched Medicaid Matters to Me, and people bravely shared their personal stories of how they have suffered without health insurance. Here is an example:

Lynn is a 57 year-old woman from Warren. She is a full-time caregiver for her elderly mother and a friend who has muscular dystrophy. She has fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia, spinal stenosis, and cervical problems, and she relies on pain and blood pressure medications. She’s currently uninsured because she can’t afford health insurance. She said, “I truly hope that I remain accident free and not sick enough to be hospitalized because if anything too bad happens, I better die. I will never be able to pay off that kind of debt.”

Lynn is not alone. We have hundreds of thousands of people with similar stories that are simultaneously heartbreaking and outrageous. We all need to acknowledge that we have an imperative as Michiganders to help each other and that right now we have a cost-effective opportunity to do so. If Lynn ends up in the hospital, I don’t think that anyone wants to have to tell her that she can’t access Medicaid because of poor politics. Let’s support Medicaid expansion so that she has access to health insurance.

Again, thank you very much for allowing me to testify today on behalf of Medicaid Matters for Michigan and MICHUHCAN. We urge you and your colleagues to support Medicaid expansion and appropriate funding for the MI Health Marketplace without delay. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at 248-420-0580 or contact@michuhcan.org.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Lamoste

Co-Coordinator, Medicaid Matters for Michigan

Board Member, Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network

Read the Testimony (PDF): Medicaid Expansion Testimony Senate Appropriations

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