The state’s Medicaid expansion has substantially improved access to primary care and preventive services for enrollees. That’s according to two recent  studies of the Healthy Michigan Plan by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

The percentage of people who reported going without needed care in the previous year was cut in half after they enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan.  

The studies are based on results from a 2016 survey of more than 4,000 Michiganders between the ages of 19 and 64 years old who had been enrolled in Healthy Michigan for more than one year.

“The emphasis on primary care, health risks, and prevention has really paid off,” said Dr. Susan Dorr Goold, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and lead author of one study and co-author of the other study. “People are getting preventative care. They’re going to primary care.”

And she said the survey shows a substantial drop in reliance on emergency rooms and urgent care centers as a regular source of care.

“That’s all good news for Michigan and certainly for the people enrolled,” said Goold.

Other findings show that nearly 90% of enrollees had seen a primary care provider since enrolling and almost 95% of them said they had discussed wellness and prevention as part of the primary care visit. A majority had received cancer screenings and other preventive care.

Michigan built a financial incentive into its Healthy Michigan Plan with the goal of encouraging enrollees to complete a health risk assessment (HRA). According to the study, this feature has been implemented in only two other states.

One of the U of M studies found that primary care providers appeared to be influential in enrollees completing HRAs and committing to behaviors that would improve their health. Ony 2.5% of the enrollees said that the financial incentive was the reason they completed the HRA, and less than a third had even known about the financial incentive.

Michigan launched the Healthy Michigan Plan in 2014 to provide health coverage to more low-income residents.

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Studies: Michigan’s Medicaid expansion proving successful in expanding health care access – Michigan Radio