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A "surge" of Michiganders signing up for expanded Medicaid

Michigan faces a physician shortage by 2020
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Michigan faces a physician shortage by 2020

Hundreds of thousands of low income Michiganders are signing up for healthcare coverage under the state's recently expanded Medicaid plan. 

That expansion lets people who are slightly above the poverty line get on Medicaid. 

It was deeply controversial when it was approved in Lansing, largely because of its ties to Obamacare. 

But 100 days after it opened in April, more than 320,000 people signed up.

That's more people than were expected to sign up all year.

Dr. John Ayanian is with the University of Michigan's Medical School and Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

His research team is partnering with the state to figure out what's actually happening on the ground with this Medicaid expansion: are people just signing up, or actually going to doctors and specialists? Are they following through on the lifestyle or medical changes their doctors suggest? 

Speaking with the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Ayanian says one thing is clear so far: there was a lot of pent up demand for health coverage among low-income adults.

"The fact that that milestone was achieved within the first 100 days is evidence that there is a significant unmet need for low income adults who  otherwise do not have good options for insurance coverage," he says.

So far more than 420,000 people have signed up for the expanded Medicaid coverage.

But what isn't clear yet is whether Michigan will actually save money through this expansion.

Supporters say it's a bargain, it if it saves taxpayers from paying uninsured people's medical bills.

But a few years down the road, the state will have to pitch in more and more money for the expanded Medicaid plans, as the federal government hands over more of those costs. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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