Michigan has great access to health care. Health outcomes are another story

Like much of the Midwest, Michigan is more obese and less healthy than the rest of the nation. The state has terrific rates of insurance, immunization and primary care physicians, though, making the state’s overall health a bit of a puzzle. (Shutterstock image)


Michigan has some of the best access to health care in the nation, but like much of the Midwest, ranks in the bottom third of the nation in overall personal health.

It’s a dichotomy that has persisted for decades, as a tradition of good-paying, union jobs has provided a better network, on average, of hospitals, insurance and access to primary care doctors than the rest of the nation.

Even so, Michigan ranked 32th in overall health in 2019, according to the United Health Foundation, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that works to improve public health. 


As a state, Michigan has higher rates than the national averages for smoking (19 percent vs. 16 percent); drug deaths (23.9 per 100,000 vs. 19.2) and heart disease deaths (300 per 100,000 vs. 260). Life expectancy in Michigan was a full year less than the national average (75.2 for men, 80.2 for women), according to state statistics.

Still, Michigan ranks high among states nationwide in access to insurance in the nation (No. 7), the number of primary care physicians (No. 6) and immunization rates among adolescents (No. 5).

The discrepancy has persisted for years, but some critics say it’s been exacerbated by a disinvestment in public health. 

Michigan is in the Top 10 for the least amount of money spent per capita on public health, according to a 2017 report from the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. Since 2004, state-supported spending on health has dropped 16 percent when adjusted for inflation, the report found.


What lawmakers are doing

Michigan’s boosted access to insurance by extending Medicaid to more than 600,000 people through the Healthy Michigan program as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. 

In January, Michigan joined nine other states to implement rules requiring adults who receive the benefit to work at least 80 hours a month or document why they can’t. The rules would apply to some 238,000 Michiganders.

Similar rules in other states have sparked lawsuits, accusations of thousands losing insurance and overall uncertainty. But Republican backers of the plan in Michigan say it’s a commonsense reform to ensure those receiving benefits get off public assistance.

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Mon, 02/10/2020 - 8:07am

Obviously need to pass a law requiring exercise, healthy eating and regular check ups!

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 5:05pm

I don't think we need a law, Matt, but we certainly need common sense. Michigan is not unique in having high rates of obesity, smoking, and other self-inflicted (in many cases) health issues. Money budgeted for incentives to get people to exercise, eat healthier, maintain a healthy weight, etc., would be money well spent, and as much as I hate paying people to do what they should have sense enough to do in the first place, the end result would be significant savings in health care costs. While I don't believe in abandoning care for people with health issues by any means, it galls me to know my tax dollars are going to pay for health care for people who have conditions related to addiction, obesity, poor diets, lack of exercise, etc., when they have at least some control over their lifestyle choices. And before all the haters accuse me of not understanding, etc., yes, I know addiction is horribly hard to overcome. Yes, I know it is difficult to make healthy food choices when people have limited income, lack transportation to stores, etc. Yes, I know that sometimes obesity is genetic or caused by other factors beyond one's control. But more emphasis on healthy lifestyle choices would go a long way towards addressing this growing health care crisis.