Opinion | Michigan budget should reflect shared values on health, well-being

Robert Gordon

Robert Gordon is director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

In a world that’s seemingly becoming more and more partisan – particularly in Washington– it’s important to realize there are many priorities for Michigan we can all agree on.

People need good health care and clean water. They believe in taking care of children in need.  They want opportunity for everyone.

As the head of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), I am fully committed to protecting the health and well-being of our residents. The MDHHS budget recommendation from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reflected important priorities. While the budget that went into effect on Oct. 1 funded many of these priorities, many important needs remain unmet. Let me name three areas with opportunities for improvement and common ground.

If we are going to have work requirements for individuals who receive health insurance through the Healthy Michigan Plan, then we can all agree that those requirements should be implemented effectively. People need to know what is being asked of them. If they want to work, they should have a hand finding it before they lose health coverage that could save their life.

Similarly, clean and safe drinking water is something we can all agree is important in the Great Lakes State. That’s why there needs to be more discussion about  the new Lead and Copper Rule, which requires additional testing and new steps to keep lead out of drinking water. We have unfortunately seen the tragic consequences of failing to address pipe corrosion that contaminates drinking water. To address those challenges, public health experts need to learn what is driving the high lead levels; residents need to learn how to address them; and low-income families need help affording filters.

Lastly, we should all acknowledge that a healthier Michigan is a better Michigan and that we should do our best to help our residents access quality health care. More than 2 million of our residents depend on Medicaid for health care. The Medicaid program needs to be efficient—but it also needs to be adequately funded.  

Unfortunately, the budget passed by the legislature did not address the needs outlined above.  It did not fund needed resources to implement work requirements or protect against lead in water.  And it left a large hole in funding for the Medicaid program, risking medical care for some of our most vulnerable residents.

There is still time to fix these problems. I have found that legislators of both parties are committed to solving problems in the state’s best interest. With more time at the table together, I am confident we can come to a resolution that makes sense for Michiganders.

 

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