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Michigan health officials want advice on how to make Medicaid health plans better

doctor and patient
National Cancer Institute

The state health department is asking people to help improve Medicaid insurance plans in Michigan before new bids for the next contracts come in.

MDHHS is asking people who have Medicaid insurance along with health care providers and other groups to fill out a survey with their ideas, on creating "a more equitable, coordinated, and person-centered system of care."

Farah Hanley is chief deputy director for health overseeing the MDHHS Behavioral and Physical Health and Aging Services Administration.

She says the goal is new guidelines for Medicaid plans to provide much more than access to doctors.

"(It) may not just be giving them access to a primary care physician, but also having care coordinators, case managers, who can really focus on the needs of the individual."

She said another focus might be non-medical needs that can impact health, such as food insecurity, or problems getting health care due to child care or transportation barriers.

"We can do a better job of providing health services that are really focused on preventive health care and really shifting from a sick care industry to a health care industry," she said.

One clear area of improvement that's needed for Medicaid plans is better dental health coverage for adults, according to Ellen Sugrue Hyman. She's executive director of the Michigan Oral Health Coalition.

She said she'll be urging dental patients on Medicaid along with dentists to fill out the survey.

She said the evidence is clear that poor dental health is associated with conditions like heart disease and diabetes, but many adults on Medicaid can't find a dentist who will treat them, because fees for service haven't increased in 30 years.

"Dentists get an average $90 to $100 for a routine exam if the patient has private insurance - but only $14.98 if the patient has Medicaid."

Another big issue is Medicaid plans won't cover gum disease treatment, root canals, or crowns.

"So instead of getting root canals and crowns, a lot of people end up getting their teeth extracted, which is disastrous for a number for reasons - it exacerbates other health conditions, makes it hard to get a job if you're missing teeth, and makes it hard to eat healthy food."

The deadline to fill out the survey is August 26.

There's currently no deadline set for deciding new guidelines for insurance companies wishing to bid for the next round of Medicaid plan contracts.

Current Medicaid plan contracts expire in the fall of 2024.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.