As Gomer Pyle used to say, "surprise surprise surprise".

The Lansing State Journal/USA Today is reporting about a study published the other day in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which states that more Michigan patients are insured since welfare medical insurance expansion.

Who would have ever thunk it, right!

Is it news that when you increase the ability to receive welfare, more people sign up for it?  It is more telling that they seem to be surprised that expanding Medicaid would increase the patient population with free healthcare.

The study, conducted by the researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, attempted to examine how broad the benefits were from the Affordable Care Act’s increase in Medicaid eligibility for Michigan.

The report’s lead author was quoted in the article stating:

The Healthy Michigan Plan appears to be shifting the balance for almost all Michigan hospitals, to have a higher proportion of patients who have insurance coverage

The expanded Medicaid program allowed Michiganders who earn up to 400% of the federal poverty line to be eligible for Medicaid.

Under the new expanded rules, the state estimated approximately 477,000 Michiganders would sign up for the program by 2016.  However, almost immediately, more than 600,000 enrolled.

The study found that hospital patients without insurance dropped from around 6% prior to the expansion to 2% in 2014, and the share of patients covered by Medicaid rose from about 23% to approximately 30%.

Again, why would they be surprised by this?  It is important to increase access to healthcare insurance, which does not necessarily mean increased access to healthcare.

The concern all long from people who opposed the program was the cost in terms of sustainability.  What  expense to other programs paid for via taxpayer money would there be? Once the states have to start kicking in for a share of the expanded Medicaid, what will that do to their budgets and other programs?  Now, people may feel that we should eliminate other taxpayer programs in order to pay for this one.  If that is acceptable, then we do not have such a big problem, but I bet that people will not be open to eliminating other state programs to pay for this one.

States must gradually pick up some costs of expanding their Medicaid programs in 2017, and by 2020 the amount of money the states must start paying for ramps up to approximately 10%.

Interestingly though, the University of Michigan study did not examine whether the reduction in uninsured patients reduced hospital’s uncompensated care costs.

Why would they not look at that?  I would believe that is an important number to the hospitals and legislature.

Your thoughts?

Let’s talk about this today on The Live with Renk Show which airs Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon. To let me know your thoughts during the show please call (269) 441-9595.

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