News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Northern Health Plan: Action taken by a Michigan House of Representatives Subcommittee
could help over 150,000 low-income uninsured people in Michigan

The Northern Health Plan is pleased to report an action taken by a Michigan House of Representatives Subcommittee that could help over 150,000 low-income uninsured people in Michigan.

The action, if passed by the House and Senate in the budget process, will dedicate $103 million to support the cost of outpatient care and medications for uninsured people. Funds will also be used to help people who have lost jobs during the economic downturn to retain their health insurance.

Developed under the leadership of Representative Gary McDowell (D-Rudyard), Chair of the Subcommittee, the action will double the number of Michigan residents covered by County Health Plans (CHPs) like the Northern Health Plan. It will effectively result in a health care “floor” under one-third of Michigan’s uninsured people.

County Health Plans currently cover 150,000 of the state’s 1.1 million uninsured people. Generally, CHPs identify and enroll eligible people, link them with contracted doctor’s offices and pay for a limited set of medically necessary services and medications.

Also included is funding to help unemployed people pay their share of COBRA costs. COBRA is a program that helps people keep their health insurance if they lose their job. As part of the national plan to aid in the recovery of the economy, the federal government has created a special program to pay 65 percent of COBRA costs for people who lose their job through no fault of their own. If McDowell’s plan is approved, the Northern Health Plan will have funds to help the lowest income eligible people pay the remaining 35 percent.

In thanking the members of the Subcommittee for their support, Rep. McDowell said: “this represents a meaningful first step toward comprehensive health care reform, but it is only the first step. The plan is targeted to people who make very low wages and cannot afford individual coverage, and at people who have lost jobs as a result of the economic downturn and want to hang on to their insurance. It uses what in the scheme of things is a very small amount of money to pay for important medically necessary care. It will help hospitals reduce uncompensated care and help people get care in doctor’s offices and Federally Qualified Health Centers instead of emergency rooms.”

Locally, the Northern Health Plan provides basic coverage to over 4,225 people. Speaking on behalf of the program, Bruce Miller, Executive Director said: “These funds, if they remain intact during what is sure to be a difficult budget process, will allow our ten county area to arrange, provide and pay for basic health care and medications for every single uninsured person between the age of 19-64 who meets the income and other eligibility criteria.”