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Opinion | During this coronavirus crisis, Medicaid must be protected

As Michigan and the rest of the United States grapples with the spread of COVID-19, it is more important than ever that every American has access to quality, affordable health care. Medicaid is a lifeline for people with limited resources providing 2.5 million Michigan residents access to life-saving health care. Nationally, it covers 70 million Americans and is the largest health insurance program in the country. Even in the face of a global pandemic, efforts to undermine and cut Medicaid continue, leaving Michiganders’ health care hanging in the balance. 

Efforts to undermine Medicaid take the form of proposals that would enact massive cuts in the federal budget such as block grants to states, a lawsuit that would overturn the Affordable Care Act entirely, imposition of strict work requirements and proposed regulations that would significantly reduce funding.  Any of these national proposals have real consequences for Michiganders.

While COVID-19 threatens the health and safety of all Americans, seniors are among the most vulnerable. Nearly 60 percent of Michigan’s seniors who live in nursing homes have coverage through Medicaid. Medicaid also supports Michigan’s low-income seniors and adults with disabilities in the community.

The Healthy Michigan Plan (HMP), Michigan’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, currently serves 685,286 Michiganders and has been particularly important in our rural communities. Because these Michiganders now have coverage, should any develop COVID-19 symptoms, he or she can see a doctor and receive treatment before an illness gets worse. It also assures that the health care resources to needed to treat people remain in the community, especially rural communities. The program stabilized fragile health delivery systems in our communities by providing a regular source of payment for care that would otherwise be unpaid. 

As COVID-19 cases soar in Michigan and across the country, widespread, comprehensive access to care is critical. If cuts are made to Medicaid, vulnerable Michiganders and the community at large could lose access to the critical care they depend on, making them even more susceptible to COVID-19.

Every day that COVID-19 spreads brings new uncertainty for countless American families. Over 800,000 Michiganders have filed unemployment claims since the pandemic began. Families across this state and the country are wrestling with how to retain their health coverage. Medicaid is a lifeline for countless Michiganders and millions of Americans, and we need it now more than ever.

Michiganders share a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities and those who care for them. We must ensure access to comprehensive, quality, affordable care. Protecting our vulnerable neighbors protects us all.

Efforts to undermine Medicaid, particularly as our country grapples with the deadly coronavirus outbreak, are just wrong. Protect Medicaid.

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